More than 250 "portable" and "packable" mini drones will be delivered to the Armed Forces – after the award of a contract worth £129 million to Lockheed Martin UK.
The 159 rotary-wing Indago 4 devices and 105 fixed-wing Stalker VXE30 drones, will replace the existing Mini Uncrewed Aerial Systems (MUAS) such as Desert Hawk 3.
Both of the new devices are capable of locating and identifying targets far from the operator and are due to be operational by the end of 2024.
Weighing a little over 20 kilograms and with a 4.88-metre wingspan, the portable Stalker is an operationally proven, vertical-launched, near-silent drone providing more than eight hours of imaging capability and able to cover around 60 miles.
The packable drone, Indago 4, weighing only 2.27 kilograms, can be folded and carried in a soldier's backpack and deployed in just two minutes with a range of approximately eight miles.
Its high-resolution camera systems provide a strong zoom capability to accurately identify people, objects, vehicles and weapons, day or night.
According to the Ministry of Defence (MOD), "both drone platforms will deliver cutting-edge imaging and surveillance and provide greater capability for the Armed Forces, locating targets at multiple ranges across a variety of environments".
Minister for Defence Procurement Alex Chalk said: "As the global threat changes, it's crucial we remain at the forefront of innovation, delivering cutting-edge capabilities to our deployed forces.
"This is another fantastic example of British industry supporting UK defence technology," he added.
Lockheed Martin UK will be the systems integrator for the duration of the 10-year contract, working with numerous enterprises as well as UAV manufacturers to develop the capability through life.
The MOD believe this will ensure "operational advantage is maintained by UK Armed Forces" by upgrading the drones and keeping pace with technological changes and emerging threats when required.
Stalker VXE30 - Specifications
Indago 4 - Specifications
Already used by the US military, the drones are designed to provide small military formations with immediate ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) capability – an increasingly vital component of modern battle spaces.
More than a dozen full-time UK jobs will be sustained at Lockheed Martin over the contract's duration, primarily based at Havant and Gloucester, including engineering, commercial, project management and support roles.
Further supply chain roles across the UK are expected to be supported throughout the contract.