by Byron Connolly

Australian soldiers to get mini drones

Jun 01, 2017

Defence is spending $101 million to equip soldiers with unmanned drone aircraft that are small enough to be carried in the field.

Minister for Defence, Marise Payne on Thursday said the ‘small unmanned aerial systems’ are small enough to be carried, assembled and used by one person and allow a solider to ‘see over a hill, around the corner and down the road.’

“Similar systems, including the Skylark, have been used by our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq with tremendous success,” Minister Payne said.

“They provide our military with a faster and better understanding of the battlefield than our adversaries.”

Payne said the capability would be acquired in two tranches. The WASP AE drone has been chosen as the first tranche to meet an immediate need.

The WASP AE, purchased through XTEK – will be modified with Australian content use other companies such as Sentient in Melbourne and Mediaware in Canberra.

Minister for Defence Industry, Christopher Pyne said the drone is a proven capability used by militaries around the world, including with the US Marine Corps.

“Importantly, a significant proportion of this investment will remain in Australia, with local industry content valued at approximately $11 million for acquisition, plus up to $4 million each year for sustainment.

“The majority of maintenance and support will be carried out in Australia by XTEK.”

Under the second tranche, the government will upgrade the WASP AE or acquire a replacement system within the next 10 years.