LONDON — BAE Systems and QinetiQ are exploring the possibility of joining forces in the development of uncrewed systems, the two British companies announced Sept. 12.
The companies said they have signed a framework agreement looking at the potential to collaborate in the aerial drones and mission management systems sector.
Coinciding with the potential tie-up, Qinetiq announced it was launching a low-cost, disposable drone development called Jackdaw.
QinetiQ is collaborating with BAE and Inzpire, a mission systems company it owns, in the development of Jackdaw.
Under the framework agreement, signed on the opening day of the DSEI exhibition here, the companies will continue to develop their own uncrewed systems but would be aligned to a common product strategy enabling collaboration on existing and future platforms.
In a joint statement the two British companies said the first stage of the collaboration will “explore the use of BAE Systems’ autonomous mission management system on uncrewed platforms developed by both companies to work alongside each other – and with existing and future crewed and uncrewed combat aircraft.”
The autonomous mission management system gives operators the ability to use a mix of crewed and uncrewed assets collaboratively, all managed by a human.
An agreement is already in place to explore the use of BAE’s autonomous goal-based mission management system on Jackdaw.
Whilst the drone is designed to be reusable, Qinetiq said its low-cost disposable characteristics provide the option to sacrifice it when needed.
Designed for swarming and collaborative autonomous operations including crewed-uncrewed teaming, Jackdaw will eventually be able to undertake missions including reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airborne decoy and threat representation.
Design work has been underway for a while. The first variant on offer will be the disposable drone that is scheduled to be available from the mid-2020s.
Mick Andrae, Qinetiq’s global campaign director for robotics and autonomous systems said the drone concept “leverages QinetiQ’s expertise in low-cost, high-performance aerial targets – such as the Banshee – and is enhanced with autonomous mission management and human-machine teaming capabilities.”
Jackdaw is designed to carry a 30 kg internal payload, have over three hours endurance and fly at speeds of 400 knots and altitudes of 30,000 ft.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.