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The Royal Navy has tested heavy-lift drones to assess their suitability for resupplying aircraft carriers and other frontline operations.

As robotic aircraft already perform complex surveillance or weaponry missions and are becoming more common in the field of air warfare, it is not surprising that the British Royal Navy is interested in adopting the technology for a wide range of missions as well. Can commercial drones be sufficient, or do we first need a compatible military version?

The Royal Navy’s 700X Naval Air Squadron has teamed up with a number of private companies to conduct tests and inspections in order to answer this question. In 2021, the first phase was completed, and in light of its success, the Heavy Lift Challenge was introduced for 2022. They chose two drones this year: Malloy’s T-600 UAV, which can carry up to 250 kg, and the ULTRA UAV from Windracers, which can carry up to 100 kg over long distances.

In parallel with the experiments, different operational scenarios were examined using a platform that simulated a Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier flight deck. The Ultra UAV successfully carried a 100 kg cargo from a distance of 1,000 km and delivered or dropped the load according to the mission objectives with maximum accuracy. reports Royal Navy officials are pleased with the results, and expect to expand the use of drones for heavy payloads in diverse sea and land missions in the future.