Turns out Australia isn't a bad place to test your secret, supersonic drones! Well, at the very least BAE Systems is keen to put its unmanned "Taranis" stealth UAV through its paces by scooting around the atmosphere above Woomera in South Australia.
According to a story on News.com.au published today, Taranis will take to the air sometime this year to exercise its flying abilities — not such a bad idea considering it's the world's first supersonic UAV. The tests are to be carried out at a facility operated by the Royal Australian Air Force in Woomera, South Australia.
As you can see from the image above, Taranis is similar in appearance to a typical stealth bomber... except for the perhaps the creepy, HAL-like red "eye" where a cockpit would normally reside.
What makes the Taranis special — other than its cool name and sleek exterior — is its high degree of autonomy, as mentioned in this piece on Airforce Technology:
The design of the Taranis UAV onboard mission systems will include advanced and highly flexible open systems architecture based on architecture developed by BAE Systems for the Hawk advanced jet trainer and Typhoon aircraft.
An important advanced technology to be integrated into the Taranis system will be the systems intelligence which provides the high level of autonomy and improved operational effectiveness. For airborne surveillance and reconnaissance missions, BAE Systems's image collection and exploitation (ICE) system allows autonomous collection and distribution of high-quality imagery with very low bandwidth allocation.
The News.com.au story also notes that the drone will be more defensively-minded and should be able to deal with threats against it better than other drones currently available.
In terms of dimensions, Airforce Technology compares it to BAE's Hawk jet — so you're looking at a 9.94m wingspan and length of 11.35m, which reportedly makes it among the biggest drones ever created.
Images: BAE Systems