Northrop Grumman, Shield AI partner to develop next-generation drone system

Image credit: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman and aircraft manufacturer Shied AI have collaborated to develop a replacement drone for the US Army’s long-serving RQ-7B Shadow tactical unmanned aerial system (UAS). 

As part of the US Army’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System competition, Increment 2, the Northrop Grumman-led team will define the modular open-system architecture of an enhanced V-BAT drone, including the integration of advanced surveillance and electronic warfare payloads. 

The V-BAT UAS is an agile and compact platform that a team of two soldiers can rapidly launch and recover in challenging and on-the-move environments, Northrop Grumman said in a media release. 

“Our team’s enhanced V-BAT embodies more than 30 years of experience designing, delivering and sustaining advanced unmanned aircraft systems, combined with a field-proven platform and production facilities,” said Angela Johns, vice president of autonomous and tactical air systems at Northrop Grumman

The US Navy and Marine Corps have been using earlier versions of the V-BAT in operations since 2016. 

Northrop Grumman said the new enhanced V-BAT is simple to operate and is equipped with increased power, a reduced logistics tail and capacity to carry a range of interchangeable payloads, including electro-optical/infra-red, synthetic aperture radar and EW systems, offering long-term adaptability and life cycle management.

Northrop Grumman partnered with Shield AI for the project to provide best-in-class solutions for an expeditionary vertical takeoff and landing UAS designed for persistent aerial reconnaissance for US Army Brigade Combat Teams, Special Forces, and Ranger battalions.