Over a series of flight tests in the last 12 months, Lockheed Martin's Fury drone has demonstrated a reliable ability to fly for more than 12 hours at a time. Built for electronic surveillance, recon, intelligence and communication link missions, flight tests of the Group 3 Unmanned Air System have recently been ramped up ahead of low-rate production.

With a quiet pusher propeller and 17-foot (5.2 m) wide blended wingspan, the Fury is designed for a minimum visual signature as it carries fuel/payload combinations up to 200 lb (91 kg).

It doesn't need a runway to launch or land – instead, it's fired into the air by an extending mobile catapult that hooks to the back of ground vehicles as a trailer.

To land the thing, you use an "expeditionary recovery system," which appears to be aerospace jargon for "fly it into a big net." DARPA is also working on a clever system it calls the SideArm, which can both launch and retrieve the Fury on a hook-and-rail crane.

The Fury's big selling point is its endurance. It can fly for up to 15 hours and a consistently proven 12 hours, carrying multiple powered payloads that would typically require a bigger, heavier Group 4 drone like the Predator, which needs a 5,000 foot runway to get airborne.

Smaller, cheaper and more portable, the Fury could start taking some of the lower end missions off Group 4 drones. Lockheed Martin is ramping up to low-run production in the coming months, and preparing to scale up.

Check out the video below.

Source: Lockheed Martin