Anduril Industries has taken the wraps off the Roadrunner and Roadrunner M (for Munition) – modular, twin jet-powered VTOL autonomous air vehicles providing flexible autonomy at significantly lower cost than comparable systems. Of particular note, according to company officials, is the recoverable aspect of the air vehicle: not simply a “mission abort and return to base” capability, but a fully-fledged ability to return, land safely, be refuelled and relaunched on an alternative mission “within a couple of minutes,” said company founder Palmer Luckey.
Designed to fill a perceived gap between cost-effective Class I and II UAS and the more expensive platforms more akin to full-size aircraft, Roadrunner offers affordable capability and operational flexibility that provide potential tactical advantage. High on the list of capabilities that the UAV exhibits is speed – described as “high subsonic” – enabling effect to be brought to the point of need at very short notice. The advantages of this are as obvious in a tactical, kinetic effect scenario as they are in bringing pertinent effect to the scene of a wildfire in its early stages – another scenario for which the system is apparently well suited.
That speed, and the system’s inherent operational flexibility, lend themselves well to the counter-UAS role. In a media briefing on 29 November, Luckey would not be drawn on exact weapon fits or mission scenarios planned, but stressed several times that the Roadrunner was designed “for a wide range of current and future threats,” including but not limited to air-to-air interdiction. “High subsonic speed and high-g manoeuvrability give Roadrunner huge potential advantage,” he said.
Anduril is something of a maverick company: “We are a defense products company, rather than a traditional defense contractor,” said Luckey. In keeping with its reputation and its previous practices, it designed and developed Roadrunner on its own dime – but it already has at least one customer and is about to enter low-run initial production, with hundreds of air vehicles in immediate prospect and a vision to scale up to thousands in the near future.
Details of the UAV are slightly thin on the ground currently – apparently due to a combination of the customer’s requirements and a desire to maintain commercial confidentiality. “Speed, payload, a recoverable nature and a near-instant turnaround cycle time are what set the system apart,” said Luckey.
For more information: www.anduril.com
(Image: Roadrunner is intended to fill a number of mission requirements, including air-to-air interdiction of targets from small drones to full-sized aircraft. Credit: Anduril Industries)