Drone40, an expendable loitering munition developed by Australian firm DefendTex, will shortly see operational use in Mali with the British Army’s Royal Anglian Regiment, according to Australian Defence Magazine’s Defence Week Premium.
Based on a standard 40mm low velocity grenade, Drone40 can be launched from a 40mm grenade launcher, hand-launched or dropped from another UAV or manned aircraft. Once in flight four rotors pop out from the body of the projectile to keep it aloft. Depending on payload and how it used, the battery powered Drone40 can remain airborne for up to 60 minutes and has a maximum range of 20km.
Drone40 can carry a variety of payloads: ISR, High Explosive (HE), Electronic Warfare (EW), smoke/flash and even a laser designator. In Mali it will likely be used in the reconnaissance role. It will also be deployed to Poland later this year for a British Army exercise.
Drone40 was first exhibited at Army Innovation Day 2016 and DefendTex subsequently received a Defence Innovation Hub contract to fund its development. DefendTex has since acquired Alfatron, an electrical componentry manufacturer, to localise the munition’s supply chain. The company says the Australian Industry Content in Drone40 stands at 90 per cent.
Drone40 is now the subject of a number of R&D programs by bodies such as the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC, the NGTF’s Counter Improvised Threats Grand Challenge and DST’s Human Machine Teaming Program. The company says Drone40 has grown into a family of UAVs in 60, 81 and 155 mm calibres with wider payload and range capacities.
The infantrymen of the Royal Anglians will use Drone40 as part of Operation Newcombe, which provides logistical heavy-lift support to French counter-terror efforts and conducts long-range reconnaissance patrols to gather intelligence on behalf of the UN mission in the country.