Soldiers on the battlefield could soon have an extra set of eyes watching over them. Lockheed is currently developing a high altitude, long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle called the Fury. But unlike other HALE platforms like Boeing's Phantom Eye or Northrop Grumman's Global Hawk, the Fury has no use for runways. It just needs a catapult.
The company has been developing it completely in-house and has already racked up 400 hours of flight time at its test range in Yuma Arizona since beginning flight tests last May, including a 12-hour endurance flight carrying half of its maximum payload. And, as of April of this year, the company reports that the Fury has begun regularly flying these long-haul missions as they begin to ramp up formal production.
The 17-foot wingspan Fury can loiter at an altitude of 15,000 feet for up to 15 hours while carrying a 200 pound payload and fuel. Depending on its payload, the uav can serve as a reconnaissance platform, providing ISR (Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) data to friendly forces on the ground or intercepting enemy radio and cell signals, or act as a communications relay, bouncing voice and sat comm signals back to base.
Despite its size, the UAV is launched from a catapult and recovered by flying it into a net -- similar to how DARPA's recently revealed SideArm system operates. This isn't the first time that the defense industry has toyed with the idea of runway-free drones either. In 2015, the US Navy announced that it was developing swarm drone technology (accurately dubbed, the LOCUST project) using low-cost, tube-launched Coyote UAVs.
There's no word yet on when the Fury will enter service. Lockheed reports that it is currently in talks with domestic and international customers.