The Grand Challenge, which is open to companies, research laboratories and academic science faculties, calls for the design of a platform with a high degree of autonomy that can detect, identify, monitor and report a comprehensive range of military threats in an urban environment.
Qinetiq said its Grand Challenge entry can take off vertically and then transition into conventional flight to provide range and operational duration. With this design, the vehicle can be used as a ‘conventional’ UAV, go into hover mode or be landed to function as an unattended ground sensor.
The sensor and imaging payload can be preconfigured using a number of existing technologies to meet user requirements. It can remain ‘on station’ and then take off again (unattended) and be recovered back to base or continue to perform as a UAV or a ground sensor at another location.
Powered by twin electric motors, the airframe is said to be manoeuvrable, stable, efficient, robust and durable. It is also lightweight, easily scaleable from the current wingspan of about 1.5m, highly portable and can be operated for long durations.
The system is currently undergoing flight testing. Final demonstration trials will take place at Copehill Down on Salisbury Plain during August. The trials aim to validate each entry’s ability to detect and identify real and potential threats, and relay this information back to an operator.