QinetiQ launches Jackdaw UAS concept to provide significant and affordable combat mass and battlespace capabilities

12 September 2023

QinetiQ today announces the launch of Jackdaw, a low-cost, high-performance ‘disposable’ uncrewed aerial system (UAS). Designed for swarming and collaborative autonomous operations including crewed-uncrewed teaming, Jackdaw will fulfil multiple missions including reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airborne decoy and threat representation. 

Jackdaw will enable our armed forces to reduce operational risk and increase combat mass by rapidly deploying large numbers of UAS in scenarios currently dependent upon small numbers of expensive crewed aerial platforms. By teaming large numbers of Jackdaw with other UAS and crewed platforms, mission effectiveness will be enhanced, the threat to human lives limited and the cost of conducting operations significantly reduced.

Mick Andrae, Global Campaign Director, Robotics & Autonomous Systems, QinetiQ commented: “The Jackdaw concept leverages QinetiQ’s expertise in very low-cost high-performance aerial targets — such as the Banshee family — and is enhanced with autonomous mission management and human-machine teaming capabilities. This, combined with the very low-cost aerial target design philosophy, makes Jackdaw highly suitable for use as a disposable UAS in air, maritime and land domain applications.”

Whilst Jackdaw is designed to be reusable, its low-cost disposable characteristics enhance operational flexibility by providing commanders with the option to sacrifice assets when needed.

In collaboration with other organisations, including BAE Systems and Inzpire, Jackdaw forms part of a family of UAS which will operate together seamlessly and coherently, aiding a more agile deployment and easier management from a central operations centre. An agreement is in place to explore use of BAE Systems’ autonomous goal-based mission management system on Jackdaw, to enable integration with NATO and allied open architectures, ensuring interoperability with existing and future crewed and uncrewed systems

QinetiQ is currently developing the Jackdaw concept for four main use cases:

  • ISR – reconnaissance and intelligence gathering to support Commanders’ situational awareness
  • Electronic Warfare – utilisation of the electromagnetic spectrum to counter adversaries
  • Active and passive decoy – representing higher value or crewed systems in order to protect lives and vital assets
  • Complex threat representation – providing operators with swarming threats and sophisticated threat payloads to ensure they are trained and operationally ready for the highly complex threat environment of the near future

The Jackdaw platform will be modular by design and as such is designed* to support 30kg of internal payload while achieving over three hours of endurance in theatre, reaching speeds of 400kts and altitudes of 30,000ft. It has been designed in the UK and will also be manufactured and tested in the UK, supporting sovereign resilience and prosperity as well as allowing easy adoption for allied countries.

The Jackdaw design programme is well underway, currently developing autonomous mission management and human machine teaming capabilities, with platform development phases commencing soon. The Jackdaw disposable UAS capability will be available from the mid-2020s and will have an iterative development roadmap with innovative functionality and design updates over time.

*Objective design performance. Final performance is subject to development programme outcomes.

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