There have been some huge jumps in the development of drones that can change from vertical takeoff to fixed wing flight once airborne. Another huge leap has been made by BAE in collaboration with Britain's Cranfield University. The engineering team has invented a concept drone using technology it is calling Adaptable UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles).
The team believes their new ideas will be perfect for military and should be in use within a few decades. The drones would be able to switch between fixed and rotary wing mode to give it a flexible advantage in new battlefield conditions. The drones expected to be able to offer more options from swarming drone attacks and defense as well being able to be used in dense urban areas.
The drones can move between the two flight modes while in flight. The drone would fly with its propellers facing forward when it is in the efficient fixed-wing mode but for takeoff and landing, one of these would swivel around to the back. This would allow the drone to be able to spin around on the spot so that it could rise or fall vertically.
The coolest thing about the concept design is that the drones have a hole in the middle of them like a donut so that multiple drones can be stacked on top of each other on a pole. The pole would be gyroscopically stabilized, allowing them to remain stable even on ships during takeoff and landings.
The video of the concept drone shows the small weaponized aircraft emerging from a hovering pod. The drones take over by descending off the pole into flight.
Professor Nick Colosimo, BAE Systems’ Futurist and Technologist describes the new aircraft saying, “The battlefield of the future will require novel solutions to meet emerging threats and to keep human operators safe wherever they may be. The Adaptable UAVs concept and related technologies are one of a number of concepts being explored through close collaboration between industry and students in academia.”
Cranfield is a key collaborator with BAE and the two institutions have together developed a range of UAV technologies. The continuing collaboration is also investigating adaptive flight control and advanced navigation and guidance software that would be part of the new drones.
BAE Systems is a massive defense company that creates a wide range of defense technology from ships to aircraft as well as defense electronics and vehicle armaments.
BAE has five strategic partnerships with British based academic institutions to work on the development of new products and testing. Each partnership focuses on a particular area of BAE research. The latest partnerships were released in April 2017. Cranfield University is researching unmanned air vehicles and avionics testing. The University of Birmingham is involved in quantum sensing, virtual reality and other immersive systems. The University of Manchester is conducting experiments to discover novel materials and working on advanced manufacturing knowledge production. The University of Southampton is responsible for sound and vibration research as well as looking into artificial intelligence. The University of Strathclyde is exploring non-destructive testing.
The collaboration with these institutions allows BAE to tap into a highly skilled yet flexible workforce, for the universities it provides their students with opportunities to develop real world technologies that are not only technologically advanced but are supported by strong business sense too.