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UK launches next phase of UAS Heavy Lift challenge

The Royal Navy trialling Windracers Autonomous Systems' Ultra fixed-wing UAS (pictured) in the UASHLC. (Crown Copyright 2022)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched Phase 2 of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Heavy Lift Capability (UASHLC) challenge.

According to the pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) published on 5 August, the MoD is seeking to “support and inform the development of maritime operating concepts and enable assessment, analysis, exploration, and evaluation of the use of UAS for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) payload delivery and broader UAS capabilities”. The MoD is therefore seeking to accelerate the development of one or more suppliers' platforms, as well as the key technologies that will enhance UAS operational capabilities.

The closing date for suppliers to submit a PQQ is 5 September, with a contract expected to run from September 2022 to August 2027, the MoD said. Up to GBP95 million (USD116 million) is available for the programme, the MoD added.

The MoD was unable to provide further comment at the time of publication.

On 22 June the MoD released a prior information notice revealing that Phase 2 of the UASHLC programme would commence in August to widen investment in potential use cases for intra-theatre lift and inter-theatre lift. Several requirements were detailed, including a platform capable of inter-theatre lift (shore-to-ship and return) that can carry a maximum of 125 kg payload over a total distance of 550 n miles, or a platform capable of intra-theatre lift (ship-to-ship replenishment and littoral ship-to-shore resupply) that can carry a maximum of 300 kg payload over a total distance of 50 n miles.

UASHLC Phase 1 saw Malloy Aeronautics T-600 heavy-lift quadcopter and Windracers Autonomous Systems Ultra fixed-wing UAS lift and deliver 200 kg payloads.

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