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Royal Navy to Trial General Atomics STOL Drone on Aircraft Carrier

The Royal Navy has announced its intention to award General Atomics a 1.5 million-pound ($1.8 million) contract to demonstrate Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) drone capability.

The contract entails the US defense contractor providing proof of concept utilizing “existing technology/services.”

The seven-month trial will “determine the future scope to address a number of capability problem sets and will support future investment decisions,” the UK Ministry of Defence stated.

The effort is reportedly part of the UK’s move to further integrate drones into its force structure, including plans to create a second air wing on both the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carriers.

Short Takeoff and Landing Drones

General Atomics unveiled the Mojave drone with STOL capability in December 2021, which is likely to be employed for the demonstration.

The Mojave is based on the company’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle-ER unmanned aircraft, featuring the avionics and flight control system of the MQ-9 Reaper.

The company developed the drone for a more rugged and austere environment, featuring a 450-HP turboprop engine and enlarged wings with high-lift devices to carry more payload —16 Hellfire missiles or equivalent — four times that of the Gray Eagle. 

The company also plans to develop an MQ-9B drone with STOL capability.

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