U.K.'s largest, autonomous unmanned aircraft completes initial flight trials

DAYTON, Ohio, 14 Nov. 2009. BAE Systems has flown the largest, fully autonomous unmanned aircraft ever to be built in the U.K. The next-generation autonomous system, MANTIS, completed its maiden flight in Woomera, South Australia. During subsequent flights, MANTIS completed a series of trials demonstrating the capability of the system and the potential of large unmanned systems to support future U.K. Ministry of Defense operational needs.

Nov 14th, 2009

DAYTON, Ohio, 14 Nov. 2009. BAE Systems has flown the largest, fully autonomous unmanned aircraft ever to be built in the U.K. The next-generation autonomous system, MANTIS, completed its maiden flight in Woomera, South Australia.

During subsequent flights, MANTIS completed a series of trials demonstrating the capability of the system and the potential of large unmanned systems to support future U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) operational needs. The MANTIS program is jointly funded by U.K. MOD and U.K. Industry.

Defence Equipment & Support Director Combat Air, Air Vice-Marshal Simon Bollom, says: "These trials at the end of this technology demonstration program have demonstrated a number of key factors that have helped build confidence in the feasibility of a U.K.-derived medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial system."

During phase one of the program, BAE Systems has been working alongside the U.K. MOD and key industrial parties, including:
* Rolls-Royce - Integrated Propulsion System & Engine Clearance
* QinetiQ - Flight Termination System and Communication System
* GE Aviation - Electrical Power System and Primary Flight Control Actuation
* Meggitt - Electrical Braking System.
* Selex Galileo - future Mission Systems and Sensor requirements.

Chris Allam, managing director of the Autonomous Systems & Future Capability business within BAE Systems, says: "This achievement is testament to the can-do approach of the whole team working on this program. MANTIS has gone from concept to flight in just 19 months and the MOD, BAE Systems and a number of industry parties have worked together to make this happen. It confirms the skill and innovation within the U.K. aerospace sector and the ability to move quickly from concept to reality."

Mark Brown, vice president Unmanned Air Systems in the U.S., notes: "A medium-altitude, long-endurance Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that is autonomous and has reduced operations and maintenance costs represents a significant capability to the warfighter. MANTIS' potential to carry mission systems and weapons represents a unique combination of performance, flexibility, and lethality."

MANTIS has a 20-meter wingspan and is BAE Systems' first all-electric aircraft. The system is intended to be easily deployable and can be broken down to fit into a military transport aircraft. MANTIS is designed to be a real workhorse with "plug-and-play" elements in the mission system and the ability to carry a wide range of sensors.

MANTIS is an autonomous, next-generation unmanned aircraft system able to execute its mission with a much reduced need for human intervention by understanding and reacting to its environment, says a representative. MANTIS could carry out intelligence gathering at long distances and can carry significant payloads in terms of sensors and, potentially, weaponry, he continues.

The MANTIS system will feature an end-to-end information capability, which will facilitate integration with the U.K.'s C4I infrastructure, enhancing sovereign operational capabilities. MANTIS shares a common UAS control infrastructure with other BAE Systems UAS, such as Taranis and HERTI.

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