It's been 30 months since Taranis, the UK's autonomous stealth drone, featured on the pages of Gizmag when a prototype of the aircraft was unveiled. According to a report in the UK's Telegraph last Sunday, the unmanned combat aircraft is set to undergo flight testing later this year.
The report includes a number of new details about the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator, the result of a development program by BAE Systems for the Ministry of Defence to develop a bomber that can autonomously evade threats and identify targets. Human control will only be necessary to authorize attacks.
The Telegraph reports that in addition to the flattened form factor reminiscent of a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber, stealth capability will be enhanced by a "highly secretive coating" that helps radar evasion.
Unlike current military drones such as the Reaper and Predator, which have respective top speeds of around 300 mph (483 km/h) and 135 mph (217 km/h), Taranis, powered by a Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine, will be capable of supersonic speeds, though its maximum speed is classified.
According to The Telegraph Taranis is 37 ft (11.3 m) long with a 32-ft (9.8-m) wingspan and will pack 6,500 lbs of thrust. Its maximum altitude is also classified.
During the test flight Taranis will run a full mission program to seek out targets, during which it will be exposed to unexpected threats in order to test its evasive capabilities.
The demonstrator has reportedly cost £125 million (US$ 200 million) to build. The news follows the recent maiden flight of the similar nEUROn UCAV demonstrator, the fruits of a collaboration between six European countries.
Source: The Telegraph