LONDON — Lockheed Martin debuted a lightweight, tube-launched, micro unmanned aircraft system designed and built entirely in the U.K. that can be launched from platforms across domains and the services.
Dubbed Outrider, the UAS is 4 inches wide and weighs fewer than 2 kilograms. It can take off from helicopters, vehicles, surface ships and submarines and can also be hand-launched, according to Paul James, Lockheed Martin’s international business development manager for the UAS, who was at DSEI, a defense conference in London, England.
The company displayed its UAS on Tuesday at its booth on the showroom floor and provided footage of the UAS launching — at the press of a button — from a pool of water to simulate its capability to deploy subsurface at periscope depth from a submarine, from a vehicle and by hand.
The UAS has a folding wing structure in order to fit inside of a canister-launching system. Outrider can fly up to 50 knots and can stay aloft for two and a half hours. The payload sits on the back of the UAS and can be used during the day and at night.
Some scenarios Lockheed envisions for the Outrider include giving submarines the ability to stay undetected and to have deep situational awareness to support either a military operation or to get surveillance on shore over large areas, and “that information can come back to the submarine in real time,” James said.
“The same really goes for a military aircraft going through a hostile area where it might need to have an eye in the sky but doesn’t know when it needs to launch it,” he said, “or equally troops carrying hand-launched.”
The UAS is controlled by Lockheed’s common ground control station. James noted many customers that already have Lockheed drones, and said Outrider can fit into their inventories without a new controller entering the mix. The system can also fly completely autonomously in preprogrammed configurations, he added.
The UAS was developed through a partnership with Wirth Research, a U.K.-based engineering company with experience in aerodynamics and composite materials gained from work in the motor-racing world, James said.
Lockheed is poised to sell Outrider now, according to James, and since it was developed in the U.K. and can be sold in an International Traffic in Arms Regulations-free configuration, it “gives us a wide international market” in which to sell the UAS.
James said the company is looking for orders from first customers by year’s end.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.