The Royal Air Force has completed a ground-breaking trial firing exercise where a lightweight multi-role missile (LMM) was launched from a drone.
It is the first time that a Jackal drone, created by the Yorkshire-based company Flyby Technology, has been used to fire an LMM, also known as the Martlet by the British military, from a hover in flight.
The Martlet was initially designed by defence firm Thales to help the Royal Navy combat swarms of small, unmanned attack boats, but recent trials have shown how they can be combined with drone warfare.
Flyby Technology CEO Jon Parker said: "If you want to win you have to be a step ahead and everybody else is racing ahead and we need to be able to either catch up or overtake. Jackal is the start of that process.
"Up until now, drones have been used in a very light tactical way or as a big standoff surveillance platform and reconnaissance platform, sometimes with missiles on them to do small interventions on roads in Afghanistan and things like that.
"And, for the first time, we've been able to get to an aircraft that can fly properly at a tactical level at a price point that is achievable for a lot of forces and a lot of companies."
Flyby Technology and Thales worked together and shared resources to combine the newly modified Jackal drone and the LMM.
The RAF has now successfully fired two Martlet missiles as part of a six-week testing exercise.
While the weapons are usually fired from shoulder launchers or larger manned platforms, the trials have demonstrated that the 1,100mph missiles can be fired from the unmanned Jackal drone.
Mr Parker said: "Jackal is the first aircraft to be able to fire a competent missile that's got lethal and devastating effect from a hover in flight."
Thales business development manager James Keown said: "It is breaking the barriers in showing what is possible by employing existing technology.
"And to show people, to demonstrate visually, that we can use lightweight precision weapons from this latest generation of, let's call it a tactical platform, where we can have, perhaps, two rounds and we can exploit all the benefits of LMM as precise.
"It has a good range, you know, it's like two to 6km, and can be used against a variety of high-value threats," he added.