ADI has unveiled a prototype mini-unmanned air vehicle-based autonomous combat system (MACS) intended for use during local area surveillance and precision strike tasks. The company's Firefly 600 UAV is controlled from a handheld computer using an autopilot system sourced from Australia's Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), with one soldier to carry this, plus several air vehicles.

The electrically powered strike UAV would be launched for surveillance of already identified targets, before attacking with an 80-120 gram (2.8-4.2oz) high-explosive warhead. A low-bandwidth datalink will enable imagery to be returned to the operator to support terminal phase course correction.

An initial version of the MACS airframe flew in late 2002, with airframe variants tested to date including a twin-T-tail Firefly 900 configuration with a 900mm (35in) wingspan and a Firefly 750. No armed version has yet flown.

The Firefly 600 has an endurance of around 20min, providing a surveillance radius of up to 10km (5.4nm). The airframe has a 600mm-span high-aspect-ratio delta wing made of Coreflute - a plastic equivalent of corrugated cardboard - and can be hand- or bungee-launched.

ADI supplied four Firefly 600 airframes to the DSTO this year to enable further platform-specific development of the autopilot. The concerns are jointly pursuing funding to develop the system as part of the Australian Department of Defence's 2005 concept technology demonstrations.

Source: Flight International