MOD Invests in Nano Unmanned Air Systems

Falcon 8 from Ascending Technologies
Falcon 8 from Ascending Technologies

The MoD has put out a public tender notice for a contract worth up to   £20m  for the supply of up to 100 Nano unmanned air systems, to be ready by the autumn.

The expenditure has been authorised as the government announces deep cuts to the RAF and other services – a coincidence that will underline the military‘s growing reliance on robot technology. Several years ago the US defence department set itself the target of having a third of its fighting strength made up of unmanned vehicles by 2015.

The RAF is already using Predator drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), armed with Hellfire missiles and Paveway bombs, in Afghanistan. The Royal Artillery is also launching the smaller Desert Hawk spotter drones, weighting 3.5kg each, in close support of ground troops in Helmand province.

The use of tiny UAVs – compared by one defence source to “toys in Hamleys” – represents a significant expansion of military resources into new areas of combat technology.

Last month a US defence contractor, AeroVironment Unmanned Aircraft Systems, exhibited its Nano hummingbird spy drone. Remotely controlled by a ground operator, it weighs only 19gm and resembles a hovering bird. The Nano unmanned air system (NUAS) sought by the MoD is required to be slightly larger.

The tender notice for the contract says: “The MoD may have an urgent operational requirement for deployable NUAS.” The drones should be available “off the shelf”, powered by a rotary wing, weigh less than 1.7kg,and able to operate in “typical conditions found in Afghanistan and the UK”

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