Airbus has confirmed that a sub-scale demonstrator version of the company’s future multi-mission UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) has been tested during a large robotic exercise. The demonstration, organised by the Portuguese Navy and NATO, validated the usefulness of the cargo copter design, particularly its modularity and easy, flexible and rapid swap-out of payloads and batteries.
The demonstrator was developed by Airbus’ UAS New Programmes group in collaboration with the company’s X-Works rapid prototyping team. A system-of-systems approach was applied with the goal of meeting military mission requirements that range from cargo transportation and ISR duties (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) to serving as a communications relay and a combat force multiplier.
Its validation occurred in highly realistic operational conditions during the REP (MUS) 2022 military exercise, which was conducted in Portugal’s Troia Peninsula region. Overall, REP (MUS) 2022 brought together some 1,500 personnel to test the coordination of unmanned systems and experimental mission scenarios above the water, on the water and under the sea.
The sub-scale demonstrator of the future Airbus Multi-Mission and Transport UAS is a 35-kg vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) multicopter. Sized to accommodate a range of payloads, the “cargo copter” is equipped with the Airbus-developed DeckFinder all-purpose landing aid for automatic landings on ship decks.
For the full-scale version, Airbus UAS New Programmes envisions a drone capable of carrying payloads of more than 250 kg over a range of 300-plus km. Beyond the military applications, Airbus foresees a role for the Airbus Multi-Mission and Transport UAS in civilian use for, e.g. humanitarian and/or disaster/crisis management.
Jens Federhen, who leads the X-Works rapid prototyping team, noted: “This was a great opportunity to trial our small-scale demonstrator in realistic conditions. Performing the demonstrations in such a demanding environment – surrounded by six research ships, 11 warships and 120 uncrewed systems around us – was extremely challenging, and at the same time very productive, as we have been able to learn and create useful collaboration links.”