The UK is looking for a “long reach, inter-theatre lift UAV, capable of carrying a minimum 50kg payload over a range of at least 300 nautical miles”.
According to an information notice:
“A potential capability gap has been identified within Defence for a long-range Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV). Consequently the Authority is seeking to engage with industry to establish what technologies are currently available in the market to potentially fulfil this requirement.
The purpose of this RFI is to gather information about current market offerings for the provision of long reach, inter-theatre lift UAV, capable of carrying a minimum 50kg payload over a range of at least 300 nautical miles with as a minimum, a waypoint-based level of Autonomy.
The aircraft must be able to fly First Person View [FPV] with a minimum 50km LOS comms & AES 256 encryption and with an assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) data source. The platform would also require the ability deliver a payload whilst in flight mode.”
Additionally, companies interested in potentially bidding for this requirement, have been asked to provide responses to the following questions:
1. What is the aircraft’s maximum payload weight?
2. What is the aircraft’s maximum range (in distance) without refuelling/recharging?
3. What type of autonomy is incorporated into your system? (E.g., Waypoint based/Task based).
4. Is the aircraft able to fly in GPS denied environments? (E.g., ability to fly FPV / using SLAM or similar capability via waypoints).
5. What type of command-and-control functionality does the system operate? (E.g., 50km LOS comms & AES 256 encryption / 100km LOS, plus SATCOM).
6. What is the in-flight payload delivery mechanism? (E.g., basic flight drop / ability to safely release and delivery a payload such as via parachute or similar)
7. What is the Payload Delivery Accuracy from altitude of c120m? [E.g., Within circle of 50m diameter / Within circle of 25m diameter
8. Does the aircraft have an assured PNT data source?
9. What type of fuel/energy does you aircraft use?
10. Does the system have collision avoidance capabilities? If so, what are they? (E.g., Organic (to platform) Sense to Avoid capability / integration capability into recognised air picture)
This is linked to the wider ‘UAS Heavy Lift Challenge’, the description of which from a notice states:
“In order to stimulate the 100kg lift Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) market, the Future Capability Group (FCG) and the Royal Navy Office of Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) delivered a programme called the Heavy Lift Challenge (HLC) in 2021/22 at Predannack Airfield, Cornwall. Two companies were funded to accelerate their platform capabilities towards a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) of 200kg.
This investment allowed The Authority to identify 2 potential operational use cases; these being:
– Intra-Theatre Lift (ship to ship replenishment and littoral ship-to-shore resupply)
– Inter-Theatre Lift (shore to ship & return)
The Authority is now looking launch HLC Ph2 in order to broaden its investment in these 2 potential operational use cases that will intend to be as follows (but not limited to and not yet fully defined as):-
1. Intra-Theatre Lift:- entry 100kg; MVP 200kg; Stretch 300kg payload lift over entry 5nM; MVP 10nM; Stretch 50nM (nautical miles)
2. Inter-Theatre Lift:- entry 50kg; MVP 75kg; Stretch 125kg payload lift over entry 150nM; MVP 300nM; Stretch 550nM (nautical miles)”
The solution is expected to fly in August this year.