Spain's INTA research agency has unveiled a development programme for a new high-speed target drone with a demonstrator to make its debut flight early in 2008.

Work on the new jet drone, designated Diana, began two years ago using internal research and development funds. The system is initially being pitched at potential Spanish armed forces requirements.

INTA also plan to use the new drone as a testbed to support high-speed test of new aeronautical technologies being developed within the organisation. The airframe uses modular construction to allow for rapid modification and evolution, and has a 25kg (55lb) payload capacity using fore and aft bays.

The programme was launched two years ago. Initial flight testing will aim to prove aerodynamic handling and autopilot capabilities.

INTA has been flying a half-scale version of the drone since January to support risk reduction for the flight-control system, with that air vehicle being flown both remotely and autonomously.

A second phase of development is planned for the full-scale drone post the 2008 flight campaign with this to expand its performance envelope to include sea skimming and airborne evasion profiles.

INTA says it is looking for potential industrial partners for the drone, but is also exploring undertaking its own limited rate production.

The drone will be launched using a pneumatic catapult with extended rail, although rocket-assisted launch requirements are also being incorporate in the design.

Source: Flight International