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The UK Navy experiments launching jet-powered drones from its carriers. Fixed-wing drones were flown from a carrier’s vast flight deck to assess how they might be used to train personnel in defending against ever-more-capable fast jets and missiles.  

The jet-powered QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+, which looks like a mini fighter aircraft, can soar to 25,000ft and fly at speeds up to 400 knots (around 460mph). It is hard to detect on radar, giving it all the likeness of an incoming missile – making it a realistic adversary for sailors to train in countering aerial threats. 

The Banshee launched from the ship and recovered to land via parachute. Launched from HMS Prince of Wales the drones could eventually be carried by Royal Navy warships and provide operational training to task groups wherever they might be in the world, allowing them to conduct air defence exercises on demand to test responses.

The drones can also serve the Navy as a testing platform for future sensors, weaponry and radio equipment. 

The Banshee flights represent the first step for the Royal Navy in exploring how crewless tech could be operated from the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers in the future, according to royalnavy.mod.uk.

Testing also looked at installing sub-systems on board and procedures for moving and setting up the drone and kit on the flight deck.

The demonstration is showcasing just one of the options as part of Royal Navy Develop Directorate’s Project Vampire, which is looking at lightweight, fixed-wing carrier-borne crewless autonomous systems.