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BAE Systems is to continue research into unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) systems under a new technology demonstration programme to be agreed with the UK Ministry of Defence in January.
The first real details of these activities emerged after the release of the DIS on 15 December, when Turner said: “We have been flying autonomous vehicles for some time under a secret programme.”
Notable successes have included the first fully autonomous flight of an unmanned air vehicle in UK airspace in August 2005, when BAE’s Herti-1A propeller-powered glider conducted a number of missions from Campbeltown in Scotland. Developed and flown within seven months, the modular vehicle reached a maximum altitude of 5,000ft (1,500m) and demonstrated its loiter capabilities during the sorties, says BAE, which is seeking military and commercial applications for the design.
More dramatically, BAE also recently conducted its first fully autonomous mission using a jet-powered UCAV-type demonstrator dubbed Corax. Flown for the first time during 2004, the high-speed design uses a shrouded, above-fuselage engine and has an extended wing with moving control surfaces. BAE refers to the experimental design as “a highly survivable, strategic UAV system” employing “flexible and modular advanced flight-control systems."