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Britain tests transport drone’s ability to land, take off from ship


A twin-engine transport drone has landed on the deck of a British aircraft carrier in what the Royal Navy said is a first for the service.

The drone, dubbed HCMC, flew on and off the deck of the HMS Prince of Wales during a trial near the coast of Cornwall, southwest England, the Royal Navy announced Sept. 7.

The drone, developed by British company W Autonomous Systems, flew for about 20 minutes from an airfield at Predannack to then touch down safely on the carrier’s deck.

After unloading a small payload from drone, it took off again and returned to Predannack.

The Royal Navy said in its statement that the aim of program is to “deploy drones with a UK Carrier Strike Group in the future, using them to transfer stores and supplies — such as mail or spare parts — between ships, without the need to launch helicopters.”

“It’s a vital step along the way to operating crewless aircraft safely alongside F-35 Lightning jets and naval Merlin and Wildcat helicopters which are currently the backbone of the Fleet Air Arm,” the statement explained.

The twin-boom, twin-engine drone is capable of delivering payloads weighing up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) with a maximum range of 1,000 kilometers (621 miles). The aircraft incorporates an autopilot system developed by British company Distributed Avionics, which eliminates the need for trained individuals to remotely control it.

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