WASHINGTON — European military officials witnessed how an intelligence-collecting drone can work with an unmanned ground vehicle to perform reconnaissance and escort tasks thought critical to success in future fights.
Defense companies Elistair and Rheinmetall Canada on Jan. 16 announced the successful demonstration of their paired Khronos drone and Mission Master SP robot before the cadre of officials at a test track in Quebec. The companies did not disclose a detailed list of attendees.
Militaries the world over are increasingly interested in developing and deploying remotely guided or autonomous systems; machines can keep humans out of harm’s way, augment already precious manpower and work around the clock in unpleasant conditions. Elistair’s Khronos deploys from a small box and can stay aloft for 24 hours while tethered to a moving object, and Rheinmetall’s eight-wheeled Mission Master SP is capable of following troops and shuttling smaller items such as sensors and weapons.
“The Mission Master family of UGVs can carry a variety of ISR payloads,” Alain Tremblay, the vice president of business development and innovation at Rheinmetall Canada, said in a statement. “But Khronos definitely has its advantages, and we see international interest given its innovative capacity to adapt to current and future complex theaters of operation.”
The two companies plan to market the combination of autonomous drone and ground vehicle to “military customers,” according to their announcement. Both have experience in North America and Europe.
Rheinmetall is the 19th largest defense contractor in the world when ranked by defense-related revenue, according to Defense News Top 100 analysis. It earned $5 billion in 2022 and $4.7 billion in 2021.
Dardily, France-based Elistair is much smaller. Its chief executive, Guilhem de Marliave, in a statement said it was exciting to collaborate with a major defense contractor and sync unmanned technologies.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.