Airbus has officially announced that it has successfully demonstrated the release of a DO-DT25 test drone from a Luftwaffe A400M transport aircraft. This new capability for the A400M is a further step forward for the SCAF and in particular the projection capability of future UAVs in this program.
Another successful test
Airbus and the German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) keep advancing technologically in the field of drones. Indeed, this summer, Airbus had demonstrated its multi-domain concept, allowing a plane or helicopter to control a drone remotely (article on the subject). Now, on December 12, Airbus announced in a press release that it has added a new capability to the A400M: drone drops.
So, a Luftwaffe A400M airdropped an Airbus Do-DT25 drone that had been lightly modified for testing. Once released, the A400M crew controlled the drone, including turning on its engine. Control of the UAV was then handed over to ground personnel who landed it safely. Several German companies and services were involved in the test but also in the research and development of the launcher:
- The Bundeswehr, including the Luftwaffe and BAAINDw (Federal Office for Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support of the Bundeswehr)
- The German Aerospace Center (DLR)
- The SFL
Another innovation for the SCAF
According to Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, this test takes an important place in the SCAF program, from a developmental point of view but also as a concept demonstration. The cooperation between the various participants in this project has enabled the development of the Do-DT25 UAV launch system from the cargo bay of a Luftwaffe A400M in just six months. The speed and success of this test is also a strong signal for the SCAF, according to the Airbus Defence and Space CEO:
"The excellent collaboration with our customer and German partners on this campaign of the UAV launcher from the A400M is further evidence of how the development of the SCAF will take innovation and technologies to the next level." He also added, "The SCAF as a system of systems is beginning to take shape now."
An A400M dropping 12 to 50 drones
The ability to carry drones from a parent aircraft increases the effectiveness of drones: just like an aircraft carrier in the open ocean, an A400M in flight will then be able to deploy between 12 large support drones or up to 50 support drones (of "standard" size). The projection capacity of the drones is therefore increased tenfold, not requiring a takeoff runway close to the action zone or even refueling aircraft (or even drones) to extend their autonomy.
According to Airbus, future dropped drones will have to increase the capabilities of piloted aircraft and this, with a high degree of autonomy thanks to artificial intelligence. As a reminder, the AI will have to allow not to have to pilot a drone directly but to send an order to one of the drones of the swarm which will pass on the given order to the drone most specialized to accomplish this order but also the closest to the objective in order to fulfill this order as quickly as possible.
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