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UK moves forward with Heavy Lift Challenge

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) launched a competitive effort for the accelerated development of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), primarily designed for payload transport and delivery in the maritime domain.

Known as the Heavy Lift Challenge (HLC) framework, the four-year project is designed to address the lack of current options in the market by increasing the number of delivery ready platforms in order to support and develop the MoD's understanding of the potential capabilities and uses of autonomous systems to accurately deliver heavy payloads at range.

In a tender notice published on 24 June, the MoD said the HLC framework was 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 publication of the HLC framework follows on from a request for information issued by the MoD at the end of 2020, which asked potential suppliers and interested parties to submit information on potential solutions that could deliver an airborne autonomous heavy-lift capability aligned to the following indicative requirements: autonomous/crewless operation; accurate delivery of payloads exceeding 200 kg; the ability for over-the-horizon/BVLOS operation; suitability for maritime environments (sea states, salt ingress, deck mobility); suitability for use in a variety of environmental conditions ashore and at sea; open architecture; and multiple, rapidly interchangeable payload types.

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