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UK awards two contracts for Heavy Lift Challenge

The T400 VTOL UAS (left) and Windracers ULTRA fixed-wing UAS were trialled at Predannack. Malloy Aeronautics and W Autonomous Systems have both been awarded contracts to advance their respective solutions under the Heavy Lift Challenge. (MoD/Crown Copyright)

Malloy Aeronautics and W Autonomous Systems have been selected by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to participate in a Heavy Lift Challenge intended to lead to the accelerated development of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) primarily designed for payload transport in the maritime domain.

The two companies have each been awarded initial small-scale contracts following successful trials at Predannack Airfield in Cornwall, southwest England.

A collaboration between the MoD's Defence Equipment and Support's Future Capability Group, the Royal Navy (RN) Office of the Chief Technology Officer and 700X Naval Air Squadron, the Heavy Lift Challenge is intended 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. The project is also serving as a pilot to test the efficacy of a new Rapid Agile Prototyping, Scaled for Operations (RAPSO) commercial framework.

The RN believes that UAS systems offer potential for autonomously transporting light cargo between ships at sea, and ammunition and stores to forces ashore, thereby avoiding the expenses associated with the use of crewed aviation. The Heavy Lift Challenge has been established to address the lack of options in the market by increasing the number of delivery-ready platforms so as to support and develop the MoD's understanding of the potential capabilities and uses of autonomous systems to accurately deliver heavy payloads at range.

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