The effective deployment of consumer UAVs on military missions in Ukraine has begun to blur the lines between larger craft built specifically for armed forces and smaller vehicles whose tech was intended for enterprise and leisure operation. Now, aerospace and defense specialist BAE is entering that overlapping space with compact, potentially expendable drones boasting super-sized capacities for military clients.
Though the craft is clearly being developed for defense purposes, the limited tech specs BAE has revealed will get consumer pilots fantasizing about putting the UAVs through the motions. The pair of compact drones – christened Concept 1 and Concept 2 – are designed to operate military surveillance and intelligence missions, yet can also tote some pretty heavy and potentially destructive payloads. In contrast to the average store-bought quadcopter, meanwhile, they’ll reach speeds Mach 0.5 and 0.75 respectively. Try pushing the sticks on your current remote that fast.
Though BAE does not provide measurements or a lot of other intimate detail about the Concept twins, the UAVs clearly seem designed to provide an expanded range of military-grade drone capabilities in a craft reduced in the direction of smaller consumer dimensions.
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Concept 1 is a twin-tailed, rail-launched, probably jet-propelled plane that will fly altitudes of up to 30,000 feet. It’s capable of four-hour flight carrying a 40 kg. payload of various sensors – or, perhaps, munitions – and can operate alone or in swarms as what BAE calls an “expendable but recoverable” asset.
The much bulkier Concept 2 (weighing in at a maximum 3,500 kgs) takes off from a runway, and can fly up to 500 kgs of payload at 40,000 feet for a total of five hours. It, too, is designed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, and can operate from land or sea launches.
With its large payload limits, this second compact military drone can be loaded with certain air-to-ground munitions and air-to-air missile. It is what BAE called “attritable but designed for 100+ sorties.”
That last description is another sign that BAE’s objective in the project is to create new classes of drones that are at once more compact, less expensive, yet even more effective in responding to conflict scenarios that are swiftly changing with the introduction of both military-grade and consumer tech.
“A complex and rapidly evolving battlespace is changing the way that our customers operate,” the company explains. “Information advantage is critical in the modern and multi-domain battlespace, where decision-makers need access to the right information at the right time… Autonomous systems play a key role in that connected, information-rich landscape. The development of agile and affordable new Unmanned Air System (UAS) concepts will provide critical enabling capability in these ever more contested environments.”