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DSEI 2023: QinetiQ launches Jackdaw loyal wingman

An artist's impression of the Jackdaw loyal wingman revealed by QinetiQ at DSEI 2023. (QinetiQ)

QinetiQ launched its “low-cost, high-performance” Jackdaw attritable unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the DSEI 2023 defence exhibition in London on 12 September.

Billed by the company as a UAV concept “to provide significant and affordable combat mass and battlespace capabilities”, the Jackdaw is intended to be what is colloquially known as a ‘loyal wingman' to manned combat aircraft.

“Designed for swarming and collaborative autonomous operations including crewed-uncrewed teaming, Jackdaw will fulfil multiple missions including reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airborne decoy and threat representation,” QinetiQ said.

As noted by Mick Andrae, global campaign director, Robotics and Autonomous Systems at QinetiQ, the Jackdaw concept builds on QinetiQ's experience of low-cost high-performance aerial targets, such as the Banshee series.

QinetiQ said the aerial vehicle is enhanced with autonomous mission management and human-machine teaming capabilities, while its autonomous goal-based mission management system is intended to integrate with NATO and allied open architectures for interoperability with existing and future manned and unmanned systems.

“Whilst Jackdaw is designed to be reusable, its low-cost disposable characteristics enhance operational flexibility by providing commanders with the option to sacrifice assets when needed,” QinetiQ said.

The company said it is developing the Jackdaw concept for the four main mission sets of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and electronic warfare (EW), to be an active and/or passive decoy and to offer complex threat representation for training.

The wholly UK-designed and developed Jackdaw platform will be modular by design, and as such is intended to carry 30 kg of internal payload while achieving over three hours of endurance and reaching speeds of 400 kt and an altitude of 30,000 ft.

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