HMS Prince of Wales has launched target drones from her flight deck as the Royal Navy begins exploring the use of un-crewed technology on the new aircraft carriers.
Fixed-wing drones – called the QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ – flew from the carrier’s vast flight deck to study how they can be used to train personnel in defending against ever-more capable fast jets and missiles.
The jet-powered Banshee, which looks like a mini fighter aircraft, can soar to 25,000ft, skim just above the waves, and flies at speeds up to 400 knots (around 460mph).
It is hard to detect on radar equipment, giving it all the likeness of an adversary missile and making it a realistic opposition for sailors to train in countering aerial threats.
These drones could eventually be carried by Royal Navy warships and provide operational training to task groups wherever they might be in the world, allowing them to carry out air defence exercises on demand to test reactions and hone responses.
HMS Prince of Wales is at sea with embarked F35 Lightning jets from 207 Sqn RAF. The aircraft carrier is exercising with multiple F35s for the first time and is continuing to develop her operational capability as she prepares for her first major deployment in 2022.