Raytheon has flight tested the air-launched effect variant of its Coyote drone for the first time.
As part of the test, the unmanned air vehicle (UAV) was launched from a canister on the ground, successfully spread its wings and then established stable flight, the company said on 3 September.
“All test objectives were achieved, including low-altitude launch, wing and flight surface deployment, and stable air vehicle flight control,” Raytheon says.
Air-launched effects are a broad category of UAVs that are designed to act as extensions of US Army rotorcraft, performing missions involving reconnaissance, electronic warfare and loitering munition strikes. The service sees the type as an important tool for reaching into enemy territory while keeping helicopters beyond the range of adversaries’ anti-aircraft weapons.
The US Army plans to launch the drones from its Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV, as well as the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, the service’s next-generation scouting helicopter.
In 2020, Area-I, Northrop Grumman’s Alliant Techsystems Operations and Raytheon won contracts to develop air-launched effect UAV designs.
The US Army demonstrated a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk launching an Area-I ALTIUS drone from just 100ft above the ground in 2020.
Additional flight tests are planned for the Coyote air-launched effect, Raytheon says.
“The launch was the first in a series of increasingly complex, near-term flight tests that will advance the [air-launched effect] air vehicle’s design, including payload integration, and further demonstrate its performance and maturity,” says the company.
Raytheon’s Coyote has previously been offered as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAV, as well as a loitering munition variant. Multiple examples of that version are capable of operating in an autonomous swarm, the company says.
Another variant of the Coyote comes with a seeker and warhead intended to destroy small, hostile UAVs. A third version is used by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for hurricane tracking and modelling, the firm says.