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DARPA to build XRQ-73 hybrid-electric UAV

A conceptual image of the XRQ-73 SHEPARD. (DARPA)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed the XRQ-73 Series Hybrid Electric Propulsion Aircraft Demonstration (SHEPARD) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programme. The 1,250 lb (567 kg) UAV is to be powered by a hybrid-electric engine and fly before the end of 2024.

DARPA did not reveal specifications of the aircraft, but described it as a Group 3-category UAV, which defines it as flying at 250 kt and under 18,000 ft altitude. A concept image depicts what appears to be a twin-engine, stealthy craft.

DARPA had not responded to questions at the time of publication.

Northrop Grumman is to build the UAV, and subsidiary Scaled Composites is listed as a major supplier. Other companies involved with the aircraft's construction include Cornerstone Research Group, Brayton Energy, PC Krause and Associates, and EaglePicher Technologies.

β€œThe idea behind a DARPA X-prime programme is to take emerging technologies and burn down system-level integration risks to quickly mature a new missionised long-endurance aircraft design that can be fielded quickly,β€œ said Steve Komadina, SHEPARD programme manager. β€œThe SHEPARD programme is maturing a specific propulsion architecture and power class as an exemplar of potential benefits for the Department of Defense.”

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