Weapon Wednesday – Drones Launched from Helicopters

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U.S. Army
  • In a test at Yuma Proving Ground, the U.S. Army launched a drone from a Blackhawk helicopter.
  • The test validated the ability to launch drones from helicopters, a tricky proposition due to the downwash created by the helo’s rotors.
  • In the near future the Army will field helicopters armed with ALEs, drones equipped with both video cameras and explosive warheads.

The U.S. Army successfully launched a drone from a flying helicopter, sending the unmanned aerial vehicle downrange and then receiving a live video feed from it. The teaming of helicopters with so-called “air launched effects” systems will make piloted helicopters more effective and survivable on the battlefield, while pairing them with drones that can search for and then destroy enemy targets.

The test took place on March 4 at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. A UH-60 Blackhawk fitted with external pylons typically reserved for fuel tanks, rockets, and missiles was instead fitted with a long, slender canister. Once in the air, the Blackhawk launched an Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System (ALTIUS 600) drone. The ALTIUS drone ejected from the canister, popped a pair of wings, and flew under the command of the Blackhawk. The drone also provided a live video feed to the Blackhawk crew.

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