BAE Systems announced this week that its Mantis Male (medium-altitude, long-endurance) unmanned technology demonstrator is to fly again, starting next year. The UAV first flew on Oct. 21, 2009, and undertook a short and successful flight trials campaign from the remote Woomera base in South Australia. The vehicle returned to BAE Systems Warton and has been laid up since.
Mantis is now being checked over before the start of taxi tests by year-end. BAE Systems intends to fly the aircraft in UK airspace, and has identified three or four sites from which flight tests can be conducted.
BAE Systems is using its own money to get the Mantis airborne again, and its planned activities are not directly connected with the Mantis-based Anglo-French Telemos Male UAV program for which BAE Systems and Dassault have joined forces. Instead, the Mantis will be used primarily for development of advanced unmanned system software and technologies that are being developed internally. In this role the Mantis will take over from the Herti UAV, which was shelved earlier this year.
Key technologies to be explored include sense-and-avoid capability, which is also being tested in the company’s Jetstream surrogate UAV testbed. Weather avoidance is another advanced capability that BAE Systems is developing, allowing the UAV to autonomously detect turbulent clouds and maneuver around them. Break-up in severe turbulence has been a factor in a number of UAV losses. A third area of advanced capability being explored is the ability to make emergency landings autonomously.