UK speeds up heavy-lift drone project for Royal Navy

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The Department of Defense announced the creation of the Uncrewed Air Systems Heavy Lift Capability (UASHLC) framework “accelerate the development of a range of autonomous heavy-lift drones intended for use primarily, but not exclusively, in the maritime domain”.

Last year the Royal Navy announced it was developing new approaches to acquiring autonomous solutions to support operational activities – such as how to get supplies to the frontline of operations. Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose hosted the first Heavy Lift Challenge, calling on drone manufacturers to showcase unmanned technology that could be adapted to transport supplies and cargo to ships and personnel.

According to a tender notice published by the MoD this week.

“The intention is to address the lack of current options in the market by increasing the number of platforms ready for delivery to help support and develop the Authority’s understanding of potential capabilities and operational uses. of these unmanned systems.”

The advisory also states that the MoD will “facilitate the accelerated development of one or more vendor UAS to meet or exceed the requirements of minimum viable products (MVPs) defined by the authority, as well as complementary and underlying technologies that will improve the operational capabilities of the UAS”.

The notice states:

“Our intention is to ensure that Defense will have access, at the pace of relevance, to current and future emerging advanced capabilities for use within the Royal Navy and other areas. The Authority will facilitate, through the use of this competitive framework, an environment in which suppliers are able to demonstrate their current capabilities, establish product development and commercial operation roadmaps and work with the ‘Authority and possibly with other suppliers to accelerate the pace of development and reduce time to market.

The purpose of the UASHLC framework, according to the notice, is to “to support and inform the development of maritime operating concepts and enable assessment, analysis, exploration and evaluation of the use of UAS for the delivery of payloads beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and broader UAS capabilities”.

According to the review, the frame is designed specifically for:

i) provide sponsor/user confidence in the potential of UAS systems to provide recoverable, adaptable, autonomous/remotely piloted aerial systems capable of accurately delivering heavy payloads at a distance;

(ii) enable the Authority to identify and, where appropriate, fund the most viable solutions on the market for accelerated development to meet the Authority’s minimum requirements (the MVPs) within the specified timeframes,

(iii) provide the Authority with a mechanism for end users to potentially acquire systems for further evaluation or other use.

“The framework is open to all industry partners who can explain how their technology/capability can enhance the heavy lift UAS market, thus not limiting the framework to platform vendors only, as the underlying technologies and capabilities and news related to UAS are also in scope. These underlying and new technologies and capabilities may include (but are not limited to) payloads, fuels, software, and Counter UAS technologies (ground-based or platform-based). The first task in the framework will be based on two confirmed sprints, as shown below, with the possibility of three additional sprints as the program develops (authority requirement and funding dependent).

For more on how this fits into the Future Maritime Aviation Force, the excellent NavyLookout has you covered here.

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