Royal Navy Tests Drone Operations On Aircraft Carrier HMS Prince of Wales

Royal Navy drone


Royal Navy drone
W Autonomous Programs drone on brief closing for touchdown on HMS Prince of Wales. (Royal Navy)

Royal Navy checks pilotless plane flown on and off of plane service for first time.

On Sept. 8, 2023, the Royal Navy introduced that an autonomous plane had efficiently operated from its plane service HMS Prince of Wales for the primary time. The drone in query is a STOL plane with a payload capability of 100kg and a spread of as much as 1000km developed by W Autonomous Programs. Whereas earlier makes an attempt have been made on the identical ship to launch QinetiQ Banshee goal drones again in September 2021, this event marked the primary occasion the place an autonomous platform took off and landed from the British service.

The 10m wingspan drone flew from the Predannack RNAS Culdrose to the service out on the Cornish coast and again, delivering provides to the ship. The dual-engine drone is able to touchdown on a mere 150m of runway, which is roughly half of the Queen Elizabeth class service’s flight deck.

While the US Navy have been conducting service borne UAVs such because the X-47B for a very long time, the distinctive design of the British Queen Elizabeth class carriers pose a distinct set of necessities. First launched in service in 2014, the British service fleet consists of two carriers: HMS Queen Elizabeth I (R08) and HMS Prince of Wales (R09).

W Autonomous Programs drone on deck of HMS Prince of Wales (Photograph: Royal Navy)

Not like the Catapult-Assisted Take-off However Arrested Restoration (CATOBAR) design of US carriers, the Queen Elizabeth class plane carriers utilise a Brief Take-off Vertical Touchdown (STOVL) design. Thus, as an alternative of a catapult on the bow of the ship, a 12.5° / 60m ramp (sometimes called a ski bounce) is current. This, together with the shortage of arresting wires on the stern of the ship imply that plane with STOVL capabilities such because the F-35B and AV-8B Harriers can function on such ships.

The commerce of a ski bounce over a catapult means much less stress posed to the working plane on take-off, but in addition ends in decrease take-off speeds and max take-off weight.  This design constraint limits the varieties of plane able to working on the Queen Elizabeth class carriers. Subsequently, the Royal Navy presently solely operates F-35Bs, Merlin HM2s, and Wildcat HMA2s on the carriers.

HMS Prince of Wales crew turnaround the plane after eradicating its payload (Photograph: Royal Navy)

With the W Autonomous Programs drone finishing profitable service trials, it has now grow to be the second fastened wing plane to ever take-off and land on the HMS Prince of Whales.

In keeping with the Royal Navy, the objective is to deploy drones with a UK Service Strike Group sooner or later, utilizing them to switch shops and provides – akin to mail or spare components – between ships, with out the necessity to launch helicopters. As drones are less expensive to function and eradicate potential dangers to aircrew, particularly in dangerous climate, it’s anticipated to switch the Merlin and Wildcats within the transportation of provides onto the ship. This moreover reduces airframe flying hours and permits the rotary wing belongings to give attention to their designed function of anti-submarine/anti-ship roles.

Lieutenant Ash Loftus, main the trials for the Royal Navy on board HMS Prince of Wales stated: “Right now’s demonstration is the end result of 18 months of onerous work from dozens of individuals throughout the Royal Navy and W Autonomous Programs. Service aviation is amongst probably the most troublesome facets of naval warfare and this success is testomony to their efforts.” This occasion marks the beginning of a program to additional improve the capabilities of the British service fleet. HMS Prince of Wales is anticipated to function in US waters later this yr and conduct additional integration checks with platforms such because the MV-22B Osprey and MQ-9 derived STOL succesful Mojave drone.

Wonwoo is a scholar journalist and contributor to The Aviationist based mostly in London, United Kingdom. Presently finding out MEng in Aeronautical Engineering with a eager curiosity in OSINT, airplane recognizing and plane design. He’s a former Sergeant of the Republic of Korea Military, having served as an artillery Fireplace Route Centre Car Radio Operator.


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