AeroVironment and Kratos will explore the deployment of tactical UAVs and missiles from high-speed, long-range unmanned aircraft.

The pair’s “strategic teaming” agreement will demonstrate how pairing these assets could be useful in challenging combat environments, say the two companies.

The work will see small unmanned systems and tactical missiles from AeroVironment integrated with “high-speed, low-cost attritable drones” from Kratos. This could set the stage for large numbers of small unmanned systems deploying across great distances in a tightly coordinated manner.

“With sufficient onboard autonomy, sensors, payloads and an integrated system design, we aim to demonstrate the deployment of large quantities of smart systems that overwhelm and disable enemy systems, while bending the cost curve to make it financially prohibitive for unfriendly nations to challenge our armed forces,” says AeroVironment vice president Trace Stevenson.

Steve Fendley, president of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, suggests that working together the two companies can produce a solution that is ready in months, as opposed to years.

Kratos, long a maker of target drones, is working on at least seven unmanned aircraft programmes, including the US Air Force Research Laboratory's XQ-58 Valkyrie. The company touts the low cost of its vehicles: a trait that would make potentially losing a large number on the battlefield financially bearable for the US Department of Defense.

Among other systems, AeroVironment produces the Switchblade, a small precision strike munition that also has an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability.

“Deploying AeroVironment’s tube-launched UAS and tactical missiles from Kratos’ highly survivable, long-range jet UAS creates an exciting opportunity to substantially increase the effectiveness and stand-off range of our existing technologies,” he says.

The pair plan to demonstrate how small, tube-launched loitering aircraft can be deployed from a larger, runway-independent aircraft. In addition, the two companies will look at how the how the smaller systems can be coordinated, with useful information relayed back to the Kratos “mothership.” This information can be then be sent to a ground control station, or be used to update mission tasking.