New swarming capability planned for the V-Bat vertical take-off and landing drone

The drone operates on a 183cc two-stroke engine powering a ducted fan propulsion and control system, allowing it to reach a top speed of around 90 knots and elevations up to 20,000 feet. Martin UAV claims that the V-Bat has an endurance of 11 hours and can carry payloads up to 25 lbs, making it well suited for carrying a wide variety of multispectral sensor systems, electronic intelligence equipmentradars electronic warfare suites, and communication packages. The truly modular nature of the V-Bat makes it very useful for swarming operations, as different drones can be configured with different payloads to give an entire swarm the flexibility to perform multiple missions and be quickly reconfigured. It is not known whether there are plans to arm the drone, but given its payload capabilities, there is a possibility that the VTOL platform will become a possibly reusable cruise missile or wandering ammunition in the future.

A line-of-sight data link gives the V-Bat a range of around 50 miles, although this is largely influenced by the terrain. Its range could potentially be increased with advanced ground control stations or by relay links with other airborne vehicles. When operating in fully autonomous mode, these line-of-sight data links would not be as big a factor and would allow drones to travel even further. Even connecting V-Bat with operators over a basic, low-bandwidth satellite data link, so that it can provide simple updates for monitoring and accept simple commands, might be an option.

The V-Bat has already been used in drug control operations by the US Navy, while the Marine Corps was test the VTOL drone for future use to replace aging UAV systems. The only UAV was also recently chosen as finalist in the navy Mi2 challenge, which aims to “accelerate the identification and evaluation of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) capable of operating in austere deployed environments without auxiliary support systems”. The US military, on the other hand, is eyeing the V-Bat for future use as part of its Army Expeditionary Warrior Experience which seeks “concepts and capabilities at the lower tactical level in support of multi-domain operations (MDO)”. The drone is competing against three other drones to replace the Army’s RQ-7 Shadow, which is rapidly approaching obsolescence and does not have the same capabilities as the V-Bat.

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