This New Naval UAV Is a “Blackjack”-of-All-Trades

Predator drones are very, very good at what they do, but $8 million will only get you about half of one. Doesn’t matter which half, that guy ain’t gonna to fly. Instead, the US Navy is investing in a smaller, lighter, more versatile recon drone.

US Naval Air Command recently awarded Boeing subsidiary Insitu an $8.8 million contract to supply the military with a one-off model of its new RQ-21A Blackjack UAV. The svelte, 80-pound, twin-boom, single-engine flying machine measures 8 feet long with a 16-foot wingspan with a 104 mph top speed, 19,500 foot service ceiling and 13 hour-plus loiter time. What’s more, the Blackjack can easily adapt to both land and sea-based missions thanks to its pneumatic launcher-the same used by the Scan Eagle-and net-based recovery system, neither of which require a runway of any length.

But the RQ-21’s real value comes from its highly configurable, modular component design…

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