Flight testing of future tactical drone for the US Army completed
Northrop Grumman and Martin UAV have completed flight tests of an improved version of Martin's V-BAT unmanned aircraft system (UAS) as part of the US Army's Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) competition to replace the aging RQ-7B Shadow drone for Army Brigade Combat Teams, Special Forces, and Ranger battalions.
Today's military commanders rely on drones for day/night reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition, as well as general situational awareness. One of the more venerable of these airframes is the Shadow, which first flew in 1991. Now, the Army wants a rapidly deployable replacement with not only new features like GPS-denied navigation, persistent aerial reconnaissance, and target designation capabilities, but also the ability to operate with a small team in confined spaces and without the need for a runway.
One of the candidates is the enhanced V-BAT, which is derived from Martin's V-BAT line of VTOL drones. Weighing in at 84 lb (38 kg) with a full fuel tank and payload, the V-BAT can remain in the air for eight hours, with an extra hour's fuel reserve.
With a ducted tail propeller to provide vertical lift while shielding the two-person ground crew from the spinning blades, the V-BAT can also transition to fixed-wing horizontal flight. Once airborne, it can reach a top speed of 90 knots (106 mph, 167 km/h), an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,600 m), and has a range of 350 miles (563 km).
The V-BAT can carry a variety of payloads that are interchangeable to meet mission requirements. These include electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR), synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and electronic warfare (EW) payloads.
As a result of Martin UAV recently being acquired by Shield AI, the V-BAT will have advanced GPS-denied navigation and autonomous capabilities via Shield's Hivemind autonomy system, which uses machine learning to learn and train for new missions.
“The enhanced V-BAT offers a near zero footprint, flexible vertical take-off and landing capability that is based on a platform deployed operationally today, to address the U.S. Army’s FTUAS mission,” says Kenn Todorov, sector vice president and general manager, global sustainment and modernization, Northrop Grumman. “The team brings more than 30 years’ experience in the production, delivery and sustainment of unmanned aircraft systems to support this critical mission today and into the future.”
Source: Northrop Grumman