Technology provider QinetiQ has handed over new Banshee Jet 80+ remotely piloted air systems to the UK Royal Navy.
Initially developed as targets for missile simulation, the drones will be deployed for future testing of naval sensors.
They will be operated by the navy’s 700X Naval Squadron (NAS), a recently-launched group based at RNAS Culdrose in Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall.
“We have already established the use of [the systems] on Royal Navy ships on deployment, but the introduction of Banshee signals a revolutionary step forward in terms of technology,” 700X NAS Commander Lt. Cdr. Martin Howard explained.
“An important point to make is that we are not weaponising these systems. Instead this will be a vehicle that will allow the navy to test different types of sensors.”
Royal Navy Banshee Fleet
The Banshee can fly more than 60 miles (97 kilometers) at over 400 miles (644 kilometers) per hour.
The drone is propelled through a 60-foot (18-meter) pneumatic launcher and lands by cutting its engine and using a parachute.
The fleet is operated by pilots from ground stations. Capabilities the Banshee can use for intelligence missions include various sensors and onboard cameras.
“700X NAS not only operates in-service uncrewed systems for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, it is also a pathfinder squadron, conducting experimentation of these air systems for defence,” RNAS Culdrose Commander Capt. Stuart Irwin said.
“They are truly at the vanguard of our Future Maritime Aviation Force. It is enormously exciting to see the rapid progress they’re making. The squadron is a great team working at the forefront of naval aviation’s next big technological leap.”
Expanding Naval Drone Capability
Following the delivery, controllers will begin launch and safety training.
During practice, the team will evaluate the drones’ utility with other aircraft in the naval airspace.
The Banshee’s maiden test flight will take place at Predannack Airfield in the summer.
“One of the challenges of [remotely piloted air systems] is the rate at which the technology develops. It’s therefore vital that we are able to change direction quickly, whilst maintaining core principles of operating safely. This is absolutely about adaptability and flexibility,” Banshee Flight Commander Lt. Tony Nairn stated.