In Brief
BAE Systems and Cranfield University have partnered on the design of an Adaptable UAV capable of switching between fixed-wing and rotary-wing flight modes mid-mission. BAE Systems believes military forces could be using their UAVs "within the next few decades."

Adaptable UAVs

BAE Systems has teamed up with students from Cranfield University to develop a new kind of drone that can quickly transition between flight modes mid-mission without affecting its overall top speed and range.

The conceptual aircraft, currently being referred to as an Adaptable UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), would operate with both its motor and propeller units facing forward when in fixed-wing mode and traveling at high speeds.

However, when it needed to land or take off, one of its propellers would rotate backward to transition the craft into rotary-wing mode. This mode would allow the drone to spin around and rise or descend vertically.

The hole in the center of the craft is designed specifically for take-off and landing purposes. In both instances, the drone would utilize a stationary pole installed on a vehicle or building. This pole would be gyroscopically stabilized to keep it from moving around while on a moving truck or ship, and multiple drones could stack themselves on a single pole for easy storage.

Coming Soon?

According to a news release, BAE Systems sees numerous benefits to their Adaptable UAVs: “This novel technology could allow UAVs to better adapt to evolving future battlefield situations and through working together in a swarm, tackle sophisticated air defenses, as well as operating in complex and cluttered urban environments.”

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As for a timeframe for adoption, the company believes military forces could be using their UAVs “within the next few decades,” though they’ve yet to set a specific date for the official debut of their aircraft.

These futuristic flying drones aren’t the only crafts BAE Systems is working on, according to company Futurist and Technologist Nick Colosimo. “The Adaptable UAVs concept and related technologies are one of a number of concepts being explored through close collaboration between industry and students in academia,” he notes in the news release.

Whether the Adaptable UAVs or any of BAE Systems’ other concepts come to fruition, the military of the future will undoubtedly feature tech unlike anything currently on the battlefield.