LONDON — U.S. tech firm Anduril Industries unveiled its Ghost-X autonomous uncrewed aircraft system here Sept. 12, an upgraded version of its Ghost system that can carry heavier payloads and fly for longer periods of time.
The system is flexible, modular and “purpose-built for reconnaissance, security and force protection,” the company said in a statement released during the DSEI conference. The design is based on feedback from the U.K. Ministry of Defence and other Ghost customers, including the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command.
“The Ghost platform was designed to adapt to user needs with a flexible and rail-centric design, and Ghost-X embodies that mission through the integration of new propulsion, payloads, and software to meet the needs of operators in challenging environments around the world,” Anduril said in the statement.
The X-variant’s upgraded propulsion system allows the aircraft to carry two batteries, extending its flight time to 75 minutes and doubling its payload capacity to 9 kilograms (20 pounds). The system also has an optional long-range communications kit and can be configured to fly a range of sensors and payloads, including electro-optical gimbals and a vision-based navigation module that allows it to fly without the Global Navigation Satellite System or GPS.
“These new capabilities contribute to a layered system of hardened navigation and communications to maximize resiliency in low-connectivity and denied environments,” the company said.
The announcement follows news Anduril has purchased Blue Force Technologies, an uncrewed aircraft system developer based in North Carolina. Blue Force builds a Group 5 UAS; these typically weigh more than 1,300 pounds and can operate above 18,000 feet. By contrast, Ghost is a group 2 UAS; they weigh less than 55 pounds and operate below 3,500 feet.
The purchase of Blue Force, according to Anduril’s head of strategy Christian Brose, builds on the company’s investments in mission autonomy software and small UAS development, adding larger systems to its portfolio.
It also positions the company to respond to calls from the U.S. Department of Defense for larger quantities of commercially available systems, particularly drones and AI capabilities, Brose told C4ISRNET in an interview.
“This has very much been a mantra of ours for the past several years, and we’re thrilled to see the progress that’s now emerging,” he said. “We have a lot to contribute to that type of objective if that is the direction the department and the United States head. It seems very clear that that is where they want to go.”
Defense Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Aug. 28 announced an initiative called Replicator, which aims to field thousands of low-cost autonomous systems over the next two years. Speaking at the Defense News Conference Sept. 6, Hicks said the effort is designed both to deter conflict with China and to ensure the U.S. has a tactical advantage if conflict does arise.
It’s also a move to drive a change in how the Defense Department develops and fields technology, signaling a push for affordable mass — whether that’s aircraft, ships, missiles or satellites.
“We’ve seen in Ukraine what low-cost, attritable systems can do — not to mention other commercial technologies,” Hicks said. “They can help a determined defender stop a larger aggressor from achieving its objectives, put fewer people in the line of fire, and be made, fielded and upgraded at the speed warfighters need, without long maintenance tails.”
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.