The UK Royal Navy (RN) has received new jet-powered Banshee Jet 80+ remotely-piloted air systems (RPAS) from defence technology company QinetiQ.

Following the delivery of drones, the RN has formed a new flight under 700X Naval Air Squadron (NAS) that will focus on safe operation and maintenance of Banshee fleet.

The NAS is based at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose on Lizard Peninsula of Cornwall, UK.

700X NAS commanding officer lieutenant commander Martin Howard said: “We have already established the use of RPAS on RN ships on deployment, but the introduction of Banshee signals a revolutionary step forward in terms of technology.”

The new Banshee drones are capable of flying with a speed up to 400mph at a range of over 60 miles. It is capable of mimicking threatening aircraft to support air defence operations.

The RPAS can be launched into the air using a 60ft pneumatic launcher system. Once launched, the drones’ operations can be handled by controllers deployed in a ground station.

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The aircraft can work in different modes and collect data using onboard cameras and sensors.

After completing a particular flight, Banshee cuts its engine and uses a parachute land.

The initial objective of developing this RPAS was to use it as a target against simulated incoming missiles, however, the RN is not planning to use it as a weapon system.

Howard added: “An important point to make is that we are not weaponising these systems. Instead, this will be a vehicle that will allow the navy to test different types of sensors.”

The maiden trials for Banshee were conducted by QinetiQ, aboard the RN’s Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales in September 2021.

Now, the RN will carry out the first flight-test of new Banshee drones in summer this year from Predannack Airfield near RNAS Culdrose.