BAE System's military air solutions business has developed a mortar launch system for use with unmanned air vehicles with a mass of up to 25kg (55lb).
With European and worldwide patents pending, the company says it has found a way to reduce the launch loads typically associated with mortar firings to enable its use with UAVs.
Developed under a programme called Project Artful it uses a bungee-based device that interfaces between the mortar and UAV. This, says BAE, reduces the launch loads by a factor of 20.
BAE has no plans to develop a UAV to be used specifically with the mortar launch system, which has been extensively tested. Instead, the company is marketing the launch system as a way of bringing what it calls "brigade-level" capability to the platoon.
"We identified that the burden of transporting launch and support equipment has been a major factor in preventing the use of small UAVs on the frontline.
This new system dispenses with the need for specialist launch equipment such as rockets and catapults. It can work with a wide variety of different UAVs and mortars without the need for requalification," says Artful project manager Chris O'Brien.
Project Artful included BAE's land systems business and a number of small and medium enterprises including Manchester-based IBEX Ropes, Cranfield Aerospace and Blue Bear Systems Research.