The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is moving ahead with its plans to equip the Royal Navy with the rotary-wing unmanned air system (RWUAS) after 2020 and is likely to complete the capability concept demonstrator (CCD) programme by March 2015.
In a contract notification issued on 24 July, the MoD stated that the navy would aim to use the multi-role RWUAS to provide mine countermeasures, hydrography and meteorology, offensive surface warfare and general situational awareness capability areas, as reported by Flightgobal.
According to the notification, the CCD programme will involve a demonstration and analysis phase, during which the UAS will be evaluated to validate its vertical take-off and landing capability, as well as specialist sensors performance in a simulated and synthetic environment.
The RWUAS will consist of an air vehicle, ground control station and communications link to reduce possible delays in the event of unplanned maintenance or technical issues.
Additionally, the MoD also requires the RWUAS to overcome issues related to platform integration and compliance with the defence lines of development during the trials.
Following the submission of potential bidders for the CCD programme by 24 August, the MoD will float an invitation to tender on 12 October.
The £4.5m ($7m) contract is expected to be awarded on 25 January 2013.
The UK's interest in the potential use of a UAS for maritime applications was also sparked by a study conducted by the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).
In 2011, QinetiQ and Northrop Grumman had offered to demonstrate unmanned trials with a Eurocopter Gazelle helicopter by integrating it with the MQ-8B Fire Scout's operating system.