UK-Swedish pair bid to develop Royal Navy’s (very) heavy-lift drone

Royal Navy heavy-lift

A pair of innovative European aviation companies have partnered up to earn a chance to develop a very heavy-lift drone for the UK’s Royal Navy – a craft the duo says will carry supply payloads of up to 700 kilograms to offshore ships.

In a very brief common press release issued today, UK-based UAV consultancy and systems provider Mondini and Swedish maker of XXL quadcopters ACC Innovation formalized their partnership to produce an exceptionally heavy-lift transport drone for the Royal Navy.

Though the oddly ambiguous text does not say so explicitly, it indicates their joint work on the project thus far has earned them selection to the Ministry of Defence’s project to develop an aerial craft capable of hauling hundreds, possibly thousands of kilograms of supplies from land to sea vessels, and between ships.

That effort was formally kicked off last year when private companies were invited to pitch their projects for consideration. The formal bidding process was an outgrowth of the Royal Navy’s 2021 initial and since recurring Heavy Lift Challenge, giving innovative aviation businesses a chance to show off the mighty-toting capabilities of UAVs under development.

That campaign is being directed by the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support unit – specifically its Future Capabilities Group focusing on obtaining cutting-edge technologies for UK forces.

Read: UK’s MoD seeks heavy-lift drones for Royal Navy supply missions

Among those is the project to produce very heavy-lift drones the Royal Navy can use for beyond visual line of sight transport to and between ships at sea as cheaper and nonpolluting replacements to helicopters and marine vessels currently used.

Though its wording is oddly vague, the Mondini-ACC Innovation communiqué appears to celebrate the solidification of their partnership, producing a heavy-lift drone for the Royal Navy as a result of their project’s selection for participation in the bidding competition by the Future Capabilities Group.

“ACC Innovation is proud to have been selected by Modini for a strategic partnership to bring a new paradigm to (drone) capabilities for the UK Royal Navy and Future Capability Group,” said ACC Innovation CEO Claes Drougge. “Modini’s professional and experienced organization helps us to bring the most powerful heavy-lift VTOL to the market, and we are fully committed to further innovation of the drone industry.”

Read: Royal Navy tests drones for blood deliveries to battlefield medics

The breakthrough by the relatively small and scrappy partners in the ongoing Heavy Lift Challenge is all the more noteworthy given the presence of some of the heavyweights from the drone manufacturing sector, including Malloy and Windracers.

Moreover, initial prototypes demonstrated to eventually transport as much as 250 kgs, while the Mondini-ACC Innovation project calls for hauling as much as 700 kgs.

“The growing relationship between ACC innovations group and Modini has started to yield fantastic results, as identified by the Royal Navy for the award of this Heavy Lift Challenge,” said Mondini CEO Nick Sharpe. “This has been successful by our engineering, integration, and operations teams working in harmony with world leading (original equipment manufacturers) to deliver best-in-class drone solutions.”

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