The Royal Navy has taken delivery of its new jet-powered Banshee drones – capable of flying up to 400mph – as it forges forward with the use of remotely-piloted air systems (RPAS).
The Banshee simulates threatening aircraft to help the Navy stay at the forefront of air defences, with the drones first trialled on HMS Prince of Wales in 2021.
Now, a new flight of Banshee Jet 80+ has been formed at 700X Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Culdrose, to learn how to maintain and operate its own fleet of drones.
Lieutenant Commander Martin Howard, Commanding Officer of 700X NAS, said the Banshee "signals a revolutionary step forward in terms of technology".
"An important point to make is that we are not weaponising these system," he said.
"Instead this will be a vehicle that will allow the Navy to test different types of sensors.
"The most important thing for me is that people are at the heart of this enterprise. In 700X NAS we are building the skills and knowledge of this technology which is key as we move forward," he added.
The drones are 10ft by 8ft and can fly at speeds of more than 400mph with a range of more than 60 miles.
They are propelled into the air using a 60ft launcher and can be operated from a ground station, accessing onboard cameras and sensors.
Once the flight is complete, the Banshee cuts its engine and deploys a parachute to gently float to the ground.
Lieutenant Tony Nairn, now the Royal Navy's first Banshee flight commander, said one of the challenges is how quickly "technology develops".
"It's therefore vital that we are able to change direction quickly, whilst maintaining core principles of operating safely. This is absolutely about adaptability and flexibility," he said.
He added his team will learn how to launch and fly the Banshee safely before looking at how to be used alongside other aircraft and at sea.
Captain Stuart Urwin, Commanding Officer of RNAS Culdrose, said 700X NAS is "at the vanguard" of the Navy's Future Maritime Aviation Force.
"It is enormously exciting to see the rapid progress they're making," he said.
"The squadron is a great team working at the forefront of naval aviation's next big technological leap."
The Navy's first test flights of Banshee is expected to be held at Predannack Airfield near RNAS Culdrose in the summer.