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US Army Conducts Maiden Prototype Test for RQ-28A Drone Replacement

The US Army has conducted its first drone prototype trial for the Short-Range Reconnaissance (SRR) Program Tranche 2 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The effort seeks to develop a small drone to provide warfighters with a “tactical edge” on the battlefield.

The resulting system will replace the service’s Skydio RQ-28A vertical takeoff and landing quadcopter by 2026.

SRR Program Tranche 2

The test was led by the Project Manager Unmanned Aircraft Systems in partnership with the Army Test and Evaluation Command and Maneuver Battle Lab.

“The SRR Program continues to follow a middle tier of acquisition pathway utilizing other transaction agreements to execute on an accelerated schedule,” a statement from the US Army said.

“[Small unmanned aircraft system] Tranche 2 will be the next generation SRR system, improving on the Tranche 1 capabilities by achieving the full threshold and objective requirements as derived from the Army’s capabilities production document.”

The SUAS Project Office conducted the first prototype testing of Tranche 2 Short Range Reconnaissance Small Unmanned Aircraft System prototypes at Fort Benning, Ga. to improve upon RQ-28A performance. The RQ-28A (shown) is the Army’s first program of record quadcopter and it is a small, vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that Soldiers at the tactical level can use to conduct real time reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition operations past the next terrain feature.
Experts controlling Skydio RQ-28A at Fort Benning. Photo: US Army

During the trials, vendor partners showcased each of their drones according to the required specifications set by the SRR program.

It involved day and night time obstacle avoidance, advanced autonomy, operational range, and flight control tests.

More Tests in 2023

The program initially received 33 submissions, of which 10 were shortlisted to demonstrate at the base.

The trial concluded with three vendors selected for the final rapid prototyping: the Teal Drones Golden Eagle MK2, Vantage Robotics Swift, and Skydio R47.

“Picking-up on where the RQ-28A left off, the first Tranche 2 testing event occurred at Fort Benning as a vendor-only alpha demonstration — to provide a proof of concept and validation for a new aircraft design, flight characteristics and enhanced system performance capabilities,” the US Army said.

“The second vendor touch point — beta demonstrations — will take place later in FY23 followed by several Soldier touch points at the limited operational experiment in the fourth quarter of FY23.”

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