Boeing’s Insitu [BA] is offering its new Integrator EX drone for the Army’s Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) Inc. 2 program to field an enduring capability to replace its Shadow drones, a company official told Defense Daily on Wednesday.

Dave Lockhart, Boeing’s senior manager of business development of C5ISR and capture lead for FTUAS, noted the Integrator EX builds on capabilities such as the company’s RQ-21 Blackjack and is designed to meet requirements that may arise from potential customers across the services.

Insitu’s Integrator EX UAS. Photo: Insitu

“We built on top of that, so we’re not starting from scratch. The newest part of what we’re doing, of course, is the vertical take off and landing. But we’re also putting a lot of other technology into it that applies to all the services,” Lockhart said during an interview at the Association of the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Lockhart confirmed Insitu previously submitted a white paper for the Army’s FTUAS Inc. 2 program detailing its Integrator EX UAS solution.

“The Army had been talking with industry and sort of putting out their feelers for what the requirements might be, effectively their market survey period. And each company, ours included, had an opportunity to say this capability as a functional technology could be ready in these [select] timeframes,” Lockhart said.

FTUAS is the Army’s program to field a new capability to replace its RQ-7B Shadow drone, with the service announcing in August it selected AeroVironment’s [AVAV] JUMP 20 system for the first increment of the program to meet an immediate operational need and inform requirements for the eventual enduring capability (Defense Daily, Aug. 19).

Under the $8 million FTUAS Inc. 1 deal, AeroVironment will deliver one JUMP 20 system consisting of six air vehicles, ground data terminals and ground control stations, with options for the Army to potentially procure seven additional systems.

In parallel to Inc. 1, the Army is currently assessing white paper submissions for FTUAS Inc. 2, which is a rapid prototyping effort to field an enduring capability for a program of record.

An initial award to selected prototype vendors for FTUAS Inc. 2 is slated for fiscal year 2023.

Lockhart cited Integrator EX’s push toward a modular open system architecture for ‘plug and play’ technology insertion and its design for command and control on the move as key capabilities of the new offering.

“For this type of customer, who needs the ability to move often and quickly, they may want to launch in one place and recover in another. So we have evolved our ground control station to actually operate on a laptop, and so they can move with it,” Lockhart said. 

The Army has said FTUAS aims to replace the Shadow drone with a “vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), runway-independent, reduced acoustic signature aircraft that can be transported organically while providing commanders with ‘on the move’ reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities.

Lockhart noted the Integrator EX can meet the Army’s requirement for VTOL capability, while remaining adaptable if another customer seeks to modify the drone for different requirements.

“For this Army user, for a tactical user, they want to be able to move rapidly and quickly for expeditionary operations. But that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned the other type of capabilities. For example, if you’re on a fixed site and you’re not going to be moving at all, you may be perfectly fine with a rail-launch system and then launch recovery equipment. If you’re somewhere in the middle, then you may be find with this FLARES system that we’ve experimented with,” Lockhart said. “The VTOL kit on the wings actually reduces endurance, because it adds additional weight. And so for that customer, they may say they want the 15 to 20 hours of endurance. The Army customer, who is able to take advantage of the vertical take off and landing, may say they don’t necessarily need all those hours because they can do multiple missions more quickly. So that’s the kind of tradeoffs we have to deal with as we engage a range of customers.”

Lockhart described the FLARES, or Flying Launch and Recovery System, as a drone that picks up and then launches another drone.