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UAS Heavy Lift Challenge reopens to new suppliers

Malloy Aeronautics T-600 heavy-lift quadcopter has been demonstrated as part of the UK UASHLC challenge. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has reopened the Uncrewed Air Systems Heavy Lift Capability (UASHLC) framework to new suppliers, the authority announced on 12 May.

With a GBP95 million (USD118 million) financial headroom, the UASHLC framework is intended to accelerate the development of a range of autonomous heavy-lift unmanned aircraft system (UAS), inform maritime operating concepts, and evaluate the applicability of UAS for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) heavy payload delivery and broader system capabilities.

The framework is open not only to platform providers, but also to any supplier that can offer capabilities which support the heavy-lift UAS market. These include, but are not limited to, payloads, fuels, software, and counter-UAS (C-UAS) solutions (ground or platform based), the announcement added.

An MoD spokesperson informed Janes that the five-year framework, set up in 2022, is an enduring commercial model that has been reopened “to grow the number of the ‘community' (currently around 50 companies) under the formal commercial arrangement”.

There are various “sprints” within the framework, with up to five planned, the announcement said. The spokesperson said these “sprints” or “periods of activity” have so far comprised the inter- and intra-theatre lift challenges held in 2022. The next set of sprints are yet to be determined, they added.

The closing date for companies to submit proposals is 23 June.

Under the UASHLC challenge, the T-600 heavy-lift quadcopter and the Ultra fixed-wing UAS were tested to demonstrate their heavy-lift capabilities. The T-600 proved capable of carrying a 250 kg payload, while the Ultra system managed to cover a 1,000 km distance with a 100 kg load.

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