The British will soon flight test a new drone, Taranis, which is a cutting-edge, unmanned- combat aircraft to be used for the UK-military.
The drone can fly at supersonic speeds, is largely autonomous, and is not detected by radar. Taranis ground testing began in 2010 and flight trials are expected to take place this year, perhaps within weeks, in Australia.
It is about as large as a BAE Systems (News - Alert) (News - Alert) Hawk Jet – some 37-feet in length and has a 32-foot wingspan. It features a Rolls-Royce jet engine. A $223.25 million UK Ministry of Defense project, Taranis is named after the Celtic God of Thunder.
“Taranis will incorporate technology allowing it to use on-board computers to perform airborne maneuvers, avoid threats and identify targets,” according to the International Business Times. “Ground crews will only be consulted to gain authorization for an attack.”
“The aim of Taranis … is to see if an autonomous and stealthy unmanned aircraft capable of striking targets with real precision at long range, even in another continent, is even possible,” BAE Systems added in a company statement.
The UK Ministry of Defense defends the project. "Taranis is a trailblazing project that reflects the very best of our nation's advanced design and technology skills and is a leading program on the global stage,” an official said.
But drones have led to controversy, globally. Human rights groups are concerned that they can be used to kill people – even in the United States – or in other nations. There is also concern if a drone fell into the hands of terrorists or criminal groups.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) led a recent filibuster of a vote to approve the new CIA director, John Brennan. He questioned whether armed drones would be used to attack non-combatant Americans in the United States, TMCnet reported. The government now says such a move would be illegal.
Meanwhile, the US Navy is developing an X-47B drone, which can land autonomously on an aircraft carrier, according to a news report.
Edited by Brooke Neuman