Meet the star of this year's Paris Air Show: the French AAROK drone

Unveiled for the first time at this year's Paris Air Show, Turgis & Gaillard's AAROK drone has raised some eyebrows in aerospace circles.
Christopher McFadden
Image of the drone.

Turgis and Gaillard 

Widely considered the star of the first day of this year's Paris Air Show was a new prototype French drone called AAROK. The brainchild of the little-known French company Turgis & Gaillard, the drone is a medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) remotely piloted combat aircraft.

Measuring 46 feet (14 meters) long, with a 72 feet (22 meters) wingspan, and with a 5.5 tonne (5,500 kg) maximum take-off weight, the drone is larger than the better-known American Reaper. According to the company, AAROK can fly at 250 knots (equivalent to 463 kph or 288 mph) and remain airborne for up to 30 hours at a height of 30,000 feet (9,144 meters). The aircraft has a turbine engine and reinforced landing gear, enabling it to land on unprepared terrain safely.

AAROK dwarfs the American Reaper drone

“We are proud to introduce our first prototype of remotely piloted aircraft, the AAROKunmanned aerial vehicle. Produced in our French factories, this UAV will meet the requirements of French and allies forces at a reduced cost, both in purchase and use," stated Fanny Turgis, president of Turgis & Gaillard Group.

What's most surprising is the relatively quick rise of the company and the time taken to develop the AAROK. The company was founded in 2011 by a former French army intelligence officer Gaillard and his childhood friend Fanny Turgis. Gaillard explains that their platform is essentially a small rotor aircraft, which can be transformed into a MALE with the help of available French technologies such as engines, weapons, and sensors.

“In the past twelve years, what started as a modest two-person firm has grown into a formidable group of 300 people. Turgis & Gaillard has gained a unique rank in the French defense and industrial ecosystem. Thanks to the development of highly tailored architectural innovations, but also as a recognized expert in retrofit and maintenance for civil and military aircraft and vehicles,” added Turgis.

“We are very conscious that our company is small, so rather than going to companies like Snecma, Airbus, Thales, Safran, and MBDA saying, ‘Hey, here’s an idea we’re working on, will you come aboard?’ we preferred to develop the prototype first and bring it here at the show so that these companies and others can see what we’re capable of doing,” explained Patrick Gaillard, director general of the company to Breaking Defense.

According to Gaillard, the top officials at the French Ministry of the Armed Forces were kept informed about the project, but the company used its funds for its development. Turgis & Gaillard is a French company headquartered in the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine, employing 300 individuals spread across nine different sites. The company has an impressive annual turnover of €50 million ($54.6 million) and is a Tier 1 supplier to Airbus.

Work on the AAROK only started in 2019

Moreover, Turgis & Gaillard is renowned for developing the Sefiam 1602e electric, remotely-controlled aircraft weapon loader, which is currently being utilized aboard the Charles-de-Gaulle aircraft carrier to load weapons onto the Rafale combat aircraft.

“[The company launched] just before COVID hit, but we organized ourselves in such a way as to keep everyone safe. But the 300 of us, managers and technicians, all came to work daily,” Gaillard recounted. “We’re aiming to have it fly in early 2024, but there’s a lot of paperwork to do to get all the permissions necessary to fly an unmanned aircraft in French airspace,” he added.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board