Portable Mini-Drones for UK Armed Forces

The Lockheed Martin UAVs are designed to deliver high-resolution imaging capabilities to locate and identify potential targets By Mike Ball / 20 Dec 2022
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Lockheed Martin has been awarded a contract to provide more than 250 portable and packable mini-drones to the UK Armed Forces. The UAVs are designed to deliver high-resolution imaging capabilities to locate and identify potential targets.

Replacing existing Mini Uncrewed Aerial Systems (MUAS) such as Desert Hawk 3, the 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 devices and 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones, which are both capable of locating and identifying targets far from the operator, are due to be operational by the end of 2024.

Weighing a little over 20 kilograms and with a 4.88 metre wingspan, the portable Stalker is an operationally proven, vertical-launched, near-silent drone providing more than eight hours of imaging capability and able to cover around 60 miles.

The packable drone, Indago 4, weighing only 2.27 kilograms, can be folded and carried in a soldier’s backpack and deployed in just two minutes with a range of approximately eight miles. Its high-resolution camera systems provide incredible zoom capability to accurately identify people, objects, vehicles and weapons, day or night.

Both drone platforms will deliver cutting-edge imaging and surveillance and provide greater capability for the Armed Forces, locating targets at multiple ranges across a variety of environments.

With proven effectiveness in this technology, Lockheed Martin UK will be the Systems Integrator for the duration of the 10-year contract, working with numerous Small and Medium Enterprises as well as larger UAV manufacturers to iteratively develop the capability through life. This will ensure operational advantage is maintained by UK Armed Forces by upgrading the drones, keeping pace with technological changes and emerging threats when required.

Already used by the US military, the drones are designed to provide small military formations with immediate ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) capability – an increasingly vital component of modern battle spaces.

Andy Start, DE&S CEO, said: “These remotely piloted systems will enhance the ability of our soldiers to gather crucial intelligence and capture essential imagery in a tactical environment. As well as equipping the UK Armed Forces for operations now and into the future, this key programme supports highly skilled jobs for the next decade.”

Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk KC, commented: “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.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact
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