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Unmanned strategy: New Zealand Defence Force prepares for future challenges

The New Zealand Defence Force has procured the Skydio S2+ UAS to help meet its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability requirements. (Skydio)

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is developing its remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capabilities through a series of experiments with a range of products.

Units in the NZDF across the three services have been purchasing or leasing single platforms for testing and demonstrations to inform future military requirements.

A spokesperson from the NZDF told Janes that NZDF units “use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) UASs foruse in training and other unclassified tasks. NZDF units currently have the flexibility to acquire and use various COTS UASs as long as they abide by the NZDF cyber policy relating to their use”.

In mid-2023 the Royal New Zealand Navy's (RNZN's) inshore patrol vessel HMNZS Taupo deployed a Skydio S2+ UAS for the first time at Operation ‘Calypso' during which aerial surveillance drone serials were conducted. The Skydio S2+ was purchased outright earlier that year.

“The RNZN is investigating the use of UAS for intelligence, surveillance, [and] reconnaissance (ISR) roles. The Skydio S2+ is capable of capturing airborne imagery using an onboard camera,” the NZDF spokesperson said.

To operate the Skydio, the RNZN uses trained remote pilots and supporting personnel to act as observers. The two Skydio S2+ operators on HMNZS Taupo had completed NZDF remote pilot training. However, there is no formal role for drone operations yet.

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