AAI has unveiled the Shadow M2, a significantly larger and heavier version of its RQ-7B Shadow, the US Army's standard tactical unmanned air vehicle (UAV).

The wingspan of the Shadow M2 grows from 20ft to 25ft (6.1m to 7.6m), and the aircraft is heavier by 120lb (54.4kg). It also features a redesigned fuselage, replacing the signature box with a streamlined, lift-generating structure. These changes extend the flight duration to 16h.

"Basically the internal guts are the same internal guts that are in the upgraded RQ-7B," said Steven Reid, senior vice-president of AAI. "It's just that we can now carry additional payload and make use of that increased bandwidth that the TCDL [tactical common datalink] gives us."

AAI Shadow M2 UAV,

 © US Army

With the M2 upgrades, Shadow M2 can carry two separate payloads instead of the standard single EO/IR turrets.

The company plans to test a number of payloads, including two synthetic aperture radars, wide-area surveillance, signals intelligence and electronic warfare packages.

The aircraft will use a new Lycoming engine that generates 60lb of thrust, up from 35lb, and a five-blade propeller. The engine is undergoing static tests and is expected to make its first flight in early 2012.

"It's up against the stops on all the constraints, but it's the most performance you can get out of this tactical class," said Reid.

Design of the M2 has not been wholly finalised, and none have been produced yet. A test bed, called Shadow M, has been flying for several months. The first flight of the Shadow M2 is expected in late summer 2012, depending on customer interest.

The weight increase necessitates changes to the existing AAI launcher, although the extent of these modifications has yet to be determined.

Source: Flight International