Disposable UAS Concept Launched by QinetiQ

QinetiQ’s Jackdaw concept is designed to be reusable, but its low-cost disposable characteristics enhance operational flexibility and provide commanders with the option to sacrifice assets when needed By Abi Wylie / 13 Sep 2023
‘Disposable’ UAS Launched by QinetiQ
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QinetiQ has launched Jackdaw, a low-cost, high-performance ‘disposable’ uncrewed aerial system (UAS). 

Designed for swarming and collaborative autonomous operations including crewed-uncrewed teaming, Jackdaw will fulfil multiple missions including reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airborne decoy and threat representation.

The UAS will enable armed forces to reduce operational risk and increase combat mass by rapidly deploying large numbers of aircraft in scenarios currently dependent upon small numbers of expensive crewed aerial platforms. 

By teaming large numbers of Jackdaw with other UAS and crewed platforms, mission effectiveness will be enhanced, the threat to human lives mitigated and the cost of conducting operations significantly reduced.

Whilst Jackdaw is designed to be reusable, its low-cost disposable characteristics enhance operational flexibility by providing commanders with the option to sacrifice assets when needed.

In collaboration with other organisations, including BAE Systems and Inzpire, Jackdaw forms part of a family of UAS which will operate together seamlessly and coherently, aiding a more agile deployment and easier management from a central operations center.

QinetiQ is currently developing the Jackdaw concept for four main use cases:

  • ISR: reconnaissance and intelligence gathering to support Commanders’ situational awareness
  • Electronic Warfare: utilisation of the electromagnetic spectrum to counter adversaries
  • Active and passive decoy: representing higher value or crewed systems in order to protect lives and vital assets
  • Complex threat representation: providing operators with swarming threats and sophisticated threat payloads to ensure they are trained and operationally ready for the highly complex threat environment of the near future

The Jackdaw platform will be modular by design, and as such is projected to support 30kg of internal payload while achieving over three hours of endurance in theater, reaching speeds of 400kts and altitudes of 30,000ft. 

It has been designed in the UK and will also be manufactured and tested in the UK, supporting sovereign resilience and prosperity as well as allowing easy adoption for allied countries.

The Jackdaw design programme is well underway, currently developing autonomous mission management and human machine teaming capabilities, with platform development phases commencing soon. 

The Jackdaw disposable UAS capability will be available from the mid-2020s and will have an iterative development roadmap with functionality and design updates over time.

Mick Andrae, Global Campaign Director for Robotics & Autonomous Systems at QinetiQ, commented, “The Jackdaw concept leverages QinetiQ’s expertise in very low-cost high-performance aerial targets—such as the Banshee family—and is enhanced with autonomous mission management and human-machine teaming capabilities. Critically, Jackdaw’s autonomous goal-based mission management system is intended to integrate with NATO and allied open architectures, ensuring interoperability with existing and future crewed and uncrewed systems. This, combined with the very low-cost aerial target design philosophy, makes Jackdaw highly suitable for use as a disposable UAS in air, maritime and land domain applications.” 

Find military ISR Drones and ISR UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) for airborne and maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications >>

Posted by Abi Wylie Connect & Contact
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