The 2017 Paris Air Show has witnessed another unveiling as Textron Systems Unmanned Systems' Nightwarden Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (TUAS) made its international debut at Paris-Le Bourget Airport. The latest variant of the AAI RQ-7 Shadow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), the Nightwarden is the production-ready version of the developmental Shadow M2, which first flew in 2012.
Described by Textron as a "next-generation platform," the Nightwarden has multi-mission capability and performance that the company claims makes it comparable to much larger strategic UAVs. Though it has a blended wing and an improved propulsion system, it retains many common features with the latest Shadow RQ-7B Version 2.
Using a new reduced-noise, water-cooled rotary engine, it has a greater electrical output than previous versions, a speed bump to 90 knots (103 mph, 166 km/h), a new endurance of 15 hours, a range of 683 mi (1,1000 km), and payload capacity of 130 lb (59 kg).
Textron says that the Nightwarden comes with an optional SATCOM package that gives it capabilities comparable to that of larger Group IV Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) platforms. It also has "fly-from-home-or-hub" station capability; open architecture and a dual-payload bay for a variety of payloads including electronic attack, signals intelligence, or communications intelligence; and the ability to carry Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) payloads and strike munitions.
The Nightwarden has already undergone testing and clocked up 400 flight hours in Europe, the Mideast and the Asia-Pacific region, where it demonstrated its ability to operate independent of proper runways by means of its automated take-off and landing system, enhanced landing gear, remote taxi system, and air vehicle parachute for emergencies.
"Since first announcing the Shadow M2, we've made significant improvements and enhancements to the system – so much in fact, that there are many differences between the two platforms," says Unmanned Systems Senior Vice President & General Manager Bill Irby, "For example, compared to our internal development model, the Nightwarden TUAS offers greater flexibility and combat capability, beyond-line-of-sight satellite communications (SATCOM) features, as well as enhanced command-and-control through Synturian, Textron Systems' new family of multi-domain control and collaboration technologies."
The video below introduces the Nightwarden.