Full-scale unmanned aircraft set for take-off

A collaboration involving BAE Systems has delivered two full-scale unmanned aircraft in just 15 months which are now being tested at its Warton plant in preparation for flight trials.

And the defence giant has now reached an agreement to acquire collaboration partner Prismatic as the two companies work to further develop the Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) technology. BAE Systems says that technology has “the potential to transform the air and space market”.

The UAV uses long-life battery technology and ultra-lightweight solar cells to potentially maintain flight at 65,000 feet for up to a year.

Since an initial collaboration between the two companies was announced in May last year, engineers have been working at pace to develop two 35-metre solar-powered UAV prototypes, various sensor payloads and operational concepts.

In just 15 months, the team has delivered two full-scale prototype aircraft, which are undergoing integration testing at Warton before flight trials which are planned for early next year.

Nigel Whitehead, chief technology officer at BAE Systems, said: “The UK is a world leader in combat air technology and bringing together the best of British expertise is critically important to drive future technological innovation that will ensure we retain this enviable position.

“Working together with Prismatic, we’re pushing technological boundaries to develop a revolutionary solar powered aircraft at an incredibly rapid pace.

Our investment in the company will enable us to take this technology into production.

“Our investment in the company will enable us to take this technology into production, with the very real possibility that this aircraft could enter initial operations with customers within 12 months of flight trials.”

Paul Brooks, founder and chief executive of Prismatic, said: “We are a small, entrepreneurial team of scientists and engineers focused on designing and demonstrating novel, high value aerospace systems.

“This is a partnership built on outstanding technical experience and which exploits the very best in small company thinking and large company experience.”

The ‘Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft’ is powered by the sun during the day and by batteries overnight.
The long-life battery and highly efficient solar technology allow the aircraft to potentially maintain flight for up to a year, operating in the upper regions of the earth’s atmosphere.

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