The UK Royal Navy’s second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales, has launched Banshee Jet 80+ target drones from its flight deck for the first time.

The flight demonstrations are being conducted to allow the service to explore the use of crewless technology on the aircraft carriers.

Banshee target drones are owned and operated by QinetiQ.

The experiment flight launches will help the Royal Navy to evaluate the use of such crewless technology in defending itself against aerial threats, such as faster jets and missiles.

The Prince of Wales demonstration also looked at how the target drone and related support equipment can be integrated within the aircraft carrier and its flight deck.

QinetiQ flight test engineers and operators flew three of the air vehicles from the drone’s launcher near the Hebrides range off the Scotland’s northwest coast.

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Royal Navy Air Test and Evaluation lead commander Rob Taylor said: “There is a real need for a low-cost drone such as the Banshee that can replicate a range of the threats in the skies and provide a test bed for future payloads.

“The key to this is that a warship can carry this drone with it on operations, launch it and use it to keep personnel razor-sharp in countering threats from above.

“The ability to adapt the payload for differing tasks is also crucial to provide value for money and interoperability across the fleet.”

HMS Prince of Wales is the first UK naval vessel to carry these uncrewed systems for demonstration purposes.

Earlier this month, the aircraft carrier returned to sea to participate in autumn exercises.

It is also set to take part in Exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland later in the year.