QinetiQ has unveiled a concept for a multirole jet-powered drone that it says will be cheap enough to be expendable in battle.
The latest U.K. drone program seeks to field a high-performance uncrewed aerial system (UAS) that will be able to fly autonomously alongside crewed aircraft, as well as operate in swarms. The new drone, named Jackdaw, after a member of the Corvid family of birds, is expected to take on a wide variety of missions and to do all this at a low enough cost that commanders will consider it “disposable” — meaning they are willing to sacrifice it in contested environments.
The Jackdaw program was announced today by QinetiQ, the U.K. defense technology company that emerged from the government’s secretive Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA). QinetiQ unveiled a model of the drone and provided details and artist’s concepts at the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) tradeshow in London.
What’s immediately interesting about the Jackdaw is that leverages some of the same kind of low-cost thinking that has led to the concept of “attritable” drones in the United States, in particular. Attritable is normally taken to refer to a drone that’s inexpensive enough that it can be used on high-risk missions that it is likely to not return from, while also being capable enough to be relevant for those missions. More recently, however, the U.S. Air Force in particular has stepped back from this term and begun to describe lower-cost drones in terms of “affordable mass,” a concept we have covered in the past. QinetiQ also stresses that the Jackdaw is designed to be reusable, too.