The next phase of introducing an unmanned aircraft system capability to the Royal Australian Navy has progressed.

Contracts have been signed with Austrian company, Schiebel Aircraft GmbH, to deliver Navy Minor Project 1942. The maritime rotary wing unmanned aircraft system is being acquired to support trials and evaluation activities for at least the next three years.

The contract comprises two S100 Camcopter air-vehicles with mission control systems, as well as engineering, logistics and operational support.

The Navy is rapidly developing an enduring unmanned aircraft system capability that will improve the situational awareness for ships, providing a significant warfighting advantage. Unmanned systems will be critical in future warfighting and will allow ships to more readily see beyond the horizon, providing greater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. The project is another step towards ensuring that the Australian Navy remains at the forefront of maritime aviation technology.

The $16 million project will build on the knowledge and experience already gained through operating the fixed wing ScanEagle unmanned system, and enables the Navy to further define Australian requirements for operating tactical unmanned systems in the maritime environment.

The project will give Navy an understanding of the workforce requirements, organisational structures, performance specifications, tactics and procedures required to maintain a permanent unmanned capability.

As tactical unmanned aerial systems are emerging technologies, particularly vertical take-off and landing systems from ships at sea, Navy has adopted an innovative phased ‘learn by doing’ approach. Navy is comprehensively testing a variety of new systems to reduce risks ahead of acquiring a permanent unmanned capability in the early 2020s, that will see the capability embarked in the future fleet.

The in-country support for the system is being provided by BAE Systems in Nowra and Unmanned Systems Australia in Brisbane.

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