Singapore-based Kelley Aerospace has officially launched the world’s first supersonic unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV). Called ‘Arrow,’ the drone is designed with a single-shell made of lightweight carbon fiber that allows it to reads speeds up to Mach 2.1 – exceeding the speed of sound.
A manned version of Arrow will control multiple unmanned versions of the UCAV. Each will have a different mission, equipment and weapon set, that can be controlled autonomously as well as by two ground station controllers.
In addition to air missions, Arrow can be deployed for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance tasks. The company has already received more than 100 pre-orders of the vehicle.
According to Ian Lim, chief executive of Kelley Aerospace, “UAVs are known for their persistence…loitering, [but] are never known for their speed. So with the Arrow supersonic UAV, you will overcome the issues of speed and reach.”
The drone has been designed for air-to-air and air-to-surface missions and can also be deployed to carry out intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance tasks.
“Arrow is the world’s first supersonic UAV that pushes the boundary with the state-of-the-art swarm and autonomous aerial flight logic – making it a formidable UAV,” according to the company statement on Kelley Aerospace’s website.
Reports suggest the drone features a monocoque (literally single-shell) built from carbon fiber, which enables it to be lightweight enough to fly more than 2,600 Nm (4,800 km) with a maximum weight of 37,038 lbs (16,800 kg).
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Kelley Aerospace has shed some light on how the Arrow drone can be used as an efficient wingman for other manned aircraft.
“The Arrow is designed to complement manned aircraft and be a force multiplier in the aerial battlefield,” the company says.
Kelley Aerospace says that the drone can be launched autonomously, or can be remotely controlled by two ground station controllers. Its stealth capability enables the drone to go undetected on enemy radars.
“It is designed for a reduced radar cross-section and infra-red signature. The carbon fiber and monocoque design endow the Arrow with outstanding strength and stiffness,” said the company in a statement.
According to reports, the estimated price range of the drone is between $9 million and $16 million. “(It) allows more airframes to be purchased and yet, have a multi-role supersonic UCAV to perform high-risk missions as it does not necessarily need to return home,” the company said.