UK army approves £129m contract for mini drones that fit in a soldier’s backpack
Image credit: lockheed martin
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has given Lockheed Martin a £129m contract to deliver more than 250 “portable” and “packable” mini drones.
The drones will be designed to replace existing Mini Uncrewed Aerial Systems (MUAS) which are expected to be retired by the end of 2024.
Lockheed will supply 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 devices which weigh just 2.27kg and can be folded and carried in a soldier’s backpack and deployed in two minutes with a range of approximately eight miles.
Its high-resolution camera system provides zoom capabilities for deployed forces to accurately identify people, objects, vehicles and weapons, be it day or night.
A further 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones will also be produced that weigh a little over 20kg and feature a 4.88-metre wingspan. The Stalker is more capable than the Indago 4 and can be vertically-launched and flown for more than eight hours, covering around 60 miles.
Alex Chalk KC, minister for defence procurement, said: “As the global threat changes, it’s crucial we remain at the forefront of innovation, delivering cutting edge capabilities to our deployed forces. This is another fantastic example of British industry supporting UK defence technology.”
Lockheed has been given a 10-year contract to iteratively develop the capability of the drones throughout their lifespan, which will maintain around a dozen full-time UK jobs.
The MoD recently signed a £90m contract for a raft of new radios designed to improve military communications on the battlefield.
Despite funding an expansion of technological abilities for its deployed forces to the tune of £11.7bn over the next 10 years, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said it is struggling to recruit and retain the skilled staff it needs - in part, because it could not match the pay on offer in the private sector.
It said the department was too bureaucratic and the hiring process was too lengthy due to the difficulties in getting security clearance.
“The shortfall of technical skills is affecting the delivery of both individual programmes and the strategy,” the NAO said.
Last month, the government revealed it has been supporting Ukraine’s cyber-security efforts against Russia with a £6.35m package designed to protect some of its critical national infrastructure.
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