June 20, 2007 The design of autonomous systems for one of the largest Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) ever conceived, the Taranis, has been finalized ahead of schedule. The size of a Hawk trainer, the Taranis unmanned fast jet demonstrator will be focused on targeting and attack capabilities rather than the surveillance and reconnaissance roles predominately given to previous UAV programmes. While still built for stealth and speed, the aircraft will be able to test deploy a range of munitions over a number of targets and will be capable of high-level decision making to defend itself against manned and other unmanned enemy aircraft in “deep” operations.
The UAV programme led by BAE Systems http://www.baesystems.com/ reached the milestone by achieving a coherent design for the “brains” of the aircraft. The system can autonomously control the aircraft to taxi, take off, and navigate its way to a search area while reacting to any threats or other events. It can find its way around the search area in whichever way it wants to, locate the target, and then use its sensor system to transmit a series of images and views back to the operator so that the target can be confirmed. Once authorized, the Taranis can then autonomously attack the target and find its way back home.
Chris Allam, BAE Systems’ Taranis project director, said: “We have brought together all the core elements of the autonomy system, and now all the key pieces are available to code and test. We have proved that the overall process is working, our plan is working, we’re on target, the team’s working well together and we’ve got a tangible output.”
Cutting metal for Taranis is due to begin in November with assembly starting before the end of the year, he said. Ground testing is expected to take place in early 2009 with the first flight trials taking place in 2010.