HMS Prince of Wales has launched drones from her flight deck as the Royal Navy begins exploring the use of crewless technology on the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
Fixed-wing drones – called the QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ – flew from the carrier's vast flight deck to assess how they might be used to train personnel in defending against ever-more capable fast jets and missiles.
The jet-powered Banshee, which looks like a mini fighter aircraft is hard to detect on radar, giving the likeness of an incoming missile, soaring to 25,000ft while flying at speeds of about 460mph.
These drones could eventually be carried by Royal Navy warships and provide operational training to task groups wherever they might be in the world, allowing them to conduct air defence exercises on demand to test reactions and hone responses, the Navy said.
The Banshee's carrying capacity allows the Royal Navy to use it for testing future sensors, weaponry and radio equipment.
HMS Prince of Wales is the first Royal Navy ship to carry these drones for demonstration purposes, as she moves towards being fully operational.
Commander Rob Taylor, lead for Royal Navy Air Test and Evaluation, said: "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."
The project forms part of a series of demonstrations that will help define Royal Navy aviation through the Future Maritime Aviation Force, which looks at how the Fleet Air Arm will operate in the years to come.
Cdr Taylor added: "The Banshee demonstration is just the start of the un-crewed autonomous systems programme of work for the Royal Navy.
"This is an extremely exciting time for maritime aviation and the future of the Fleet Air Arm."