Warplanes: UAVs As Communications Relays


August 11, 2009: An American Bat UAV was recently fitted with communications relay equipment (so that its ground units, especially those operating in mountainous terrain) could get much more range out of their radios (whose signals are often blocked by mountains). These tests with the communications relay gear were a success, and were performed for an "unnamed government customer" (most likely SOCOM or CIA, although the army and marines are also potential users).

Earlier this year, Northrup Grumman bought the Bat UAV design from Raytheon (which will continue to develop UAVs with the unique Bat design). Earlier, Raytheon had renamed the Killerbee UAV as Bat, and began scaling up the original 43 pound, 6.5 wingspan model to others with wingspans up to 33.2 feet. The Bat is a unique design, using a blended wing (like the B-2 bomber). The Bat line is competing to snag the contract to be one of the standard Department of Defense UAV models.

Raytheon had bought the Bat line from the original developer, Swift Engineering. Raytheon believes that the Bat design has a shot at being a major player in the military UAV market, but its unique design has yet to demonstrate a decisive superiority over more conventional shapes (like the Predator).