back to article BAE 'skips a generation' in killer robot tech

UK-headquartered arms globocorp BAE Systems plc has shown off a raft of new robotic concepts this week at the Farnborough Air Show. But the newest and biggest kid on the BAE droidplane block is the Mantis, a large and powerful twin-engined technology demonstrator project whose wraps came off on Monday for the ceremonial inking …


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  1. call me scruffy
    Dead Vulture

    I can picture the scene now.

    CO taking delivery of a new mantis UAV:

    "Whare are the hard points?"

    "What Hard Points?"

    "The Hard points for the brimstones and ordanance you had at Farnborough"

    "Oh, that, that was just the demonstrator"

    Strange, despite this being one of Lewis's articles, for a full half minute I was marvelling that BAE might actually produce something competent within ten years of the concept being outdated.

    Dead Vulture, cos this bird won't fly.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Yes. We get it.

    "Y number of desperately-necessary Chinook transport choppers, armoured vehicles or whatever."

    You talked to some guy in the Army who wants more Chinooks. He may be right, or he may be being very selfish and failing to see the big picture. Now please drop it.

  3. John Bayly

    Cockpit canopy

    I always find it a bit strange that these UAVs always have the bubble in the fuselage similar to where the cockpit canopy would be for a manned vehicle.

    Admittedly they want weight forward to get the CoG in the correct position which means needing volume forward of the wing, but I do wonder if it's the most efficient aerodynamic design.

  4. Peter Depledge


    You just had to squeeze that in didn't you Lewis?

    Perhaps the MOD should just buy Chinooks and nothing else.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Your own article on why as much autonomy as possible is a good thing. If it can take off, fly to here it needs to be, take the pictures of whatever needs to be photographed then fly back and land without pilot control, that's a very good thing. If it can take off, fly to where it needs to be, then have pilot control for weapons, then fly back on its own etc.. again, a good thing.

    However, as its a BAE project, and the MOD is buying it, and the US actually has a variant of this project, buy US is the theme.... again. I eagerly await your next installment of "why are we not buying from the US" due tomorrow?

  6. Brian

    (Hell)fire and Brimstone...

    Didn't see that one coming!

  7. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Thriller Robot Tech ..... NIRobotIQs XXXXPloring the NeurotICQ Field of Creative Endeavour

    "That is, BAE wanted it kept secret as the information might give its market rivals an unfair advantage. When it was pointed out that BAE said this was not the case, the MoD reps promised to get back to us. As of publication, we haven't yet heard."

    They could always pull a Flash one and feed US disinformation which could be Valid Accurate Intel for All anyone would Really be Able to Know. Needs to Know for Feeds to Know.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "UAVs - now with unnecessary delays and duplicate costs"

    See! Who said you needed pilots to screw things up!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    There is no elevator to Eden, but a hole in the sky

    "The Mantis has some special sauce not usually seen on current Predators and such - it will use onboard processing, allowing much less bandwidth to be used in downloading radar data."

    Have they considered enlarging the cockpit area, and fitting a small cabin for a human operator? It might be technically tricky, and there would always be the risk that the machine might perform a high-G turn that would kill the operator, but it would allow direct real-time control.

    There would be no need for windows.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    keep it up Lewis

    Its nice that there is one reporter who isn't creaming his shorts over the next bit of deathware to come out of the unholy Gov/BaE alliance.

    Engineers - do something better with your lives.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    £15 million going around in the UK economy is better than £10 million going to the US. (my wages come from money spent in the UK! - no im not in the arms/aerospace/war trade.)

  12. Frank Bough
    Dead Vulture

    BASIC Chinook

    10 PRINT "Why don't we just spend the money on Chinooks?"

    20 GOTO 10

  13. Xander Dent

    Maybe, just maybe, they're better informed than you.


    Seriously. Without putting in any more thought then I give to which cereal to eat for breakfast, I can think of one why *I* personally would rather see BaE get the contract, than some smarmy US counterpart. Tax. Even if we pay more for the gear from BaE, than in the states, we (the govt.) gets a huge chunk of that back as tax in various forms, plus the jobs (and therefore more tax), and a percentage of the money those workers spend their wages as, yup, you guessed it, tax.

    Grow a pair, get your nose out of the US collective arse and try and portray things as they are, not with some of that typical Daily Mail/Fox News political slant.


  14. Mark Honman

    War is wasteful

    When there is an actual shooting war, it's amazing how much equipment goes to waste. If not destroyed by the enemy, the squaddies will put paid to it.

    So I'm with Lewis on the "buy overseas" approach. Right now the UK has a war on its hands, and the goal should be to end it (preferably in victory) at the lowest cost in lives and treasure. That puts a priority on generous quantities of proven, low-cost equipment - not much of it will come back from Afghanistan whether the UK wins or loses.

    Newly developed weapons are not going to make it out there in time to affect the outcome of the war - although the arms companies are using the war to justify development of new technologies.

    It was George Orwell who said that the British always prepare for the last war. It does seem that too much effort is going into preparation for large-scale conventional wars (that is, apart from the small scale of the UK forces).

    BTW I used to work in the tech side of the arms industry, and it is fun to work on military technology... but in our case (South Africa) it was the cheap and cheerful stuff that made the difference in the field.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Chinook obsession...

    no, Chinooks are not the answer... they are unbelieveably noisy from the frontal aspect and give their presence away well before their arrival at a drop point... Charlie/Abdul has plenty of advance warning when they are approaching and can just sit tight and fill the sky with streams of lead.

  16. RT
    Black Helicopters

    Unmanned Autonomous Chinooks (UAC)...

    ...they're the future!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    People still buy USA ????? I thought every ting came from china now.

  18. Graeme

    Sat coms

    "This potentially spares the British forces' pay-as-you-go PFI satcomms budget, and could be a popular feature."

    that and availible statelite capacity is usually maxed out during most warfighting opps, the less comms needed the better

    and pilots don't nessesrily have to be expensive, its just the current one's we have are, and they're a damn site cheaper than crashing a UAV into a packed Tristar on short finals because you haven't been trained to read an avaition chart

  19. William Doohan
    Black Helicopters

    I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle...

    Hmmm, Autonomous Flying Killer Robots + Skynet Satellittes = Judgement Day?

  20. Simon Says

    Full autonomy not allowed over today's battlefields?

    You'd better tell HERTI then (another BAE UAV project), which saw a successful operational front line debut in Afghanistan at the tail end of last year - that is also fully autonomous rather than remote piloted.

    Fully autonomous is not a significant difference from remote piloted? Don't be daft. There is a quantum leap of difference between full autonomy and single / dual remote piloted, so no - Sky Warrior hasn't done this already by any stretch of the imagination.

    Also fully autonomous does not mean that the UAV doesn't communicate back what it sees, it just means less two-way communication is required for it to do just the basic flying so the available satcom bandwidth can be dedicated to actually useful mission-specific data.

  21. Daniel Wilkie

    @AC Required

    Personally, I'd rather see £10 million going round the US economy for something that actually does the job than £15 million, oops wait now £20 due to overruns, oop now up to £25 etc etc for something that's a great big white elephant that then breaks.

    Besdies which, if the American economy falls apart, what do you think will happen to ours shortly after? ;)

  22. Anonymous Coward

    @John Bayly

    The reason the cockpit looks very 'cockpit-like' is fo rthe little green aliens to sit in them. That's why the glass is painted so we can't see in. There is no autonomous systems out there. It's all run by little green aliens.

    And no worries about G-forces, if you've seen the UFO's flying, the LGA can withstand massive G-forces.

    All hail the LGA overlords

  23. Adam

    Driven by the bean counters

    Sheesh all this "Chinook" drivel....when the reality is that things like the Mantis are being driven by cash savings.

    Look at how quickly the USAF & UK fast jets are being worn out. The harriers are being withdrawn from Afghanistan basically so we have something to put on the a/c carriers when they arrive.

    Operating costs of a Mantis vs a Harrier/tornado? Including crew, fuel, wear & tear etc.etc.

    Keep the fast jets tucked up in some nice dry shed somewhere while the ordnance is actually delivered by cheap to operate drones.


  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Daniel Wilkie

    that should be:

    £10 million going to the USA, plus another £10 million when we want to change the software, plus another £10 million when we want to service them etc....

    Although I agree to a point that if the US economy tanks ours will surely follow it is absurd to suggest that we purposely tank our own economy in order to protect the US economy which in turn will prevent our economy tanking.

  25. Peter W


    buying from the uk makes sense unless it's absolute vastly overpriced - talking 2-3x the cost - as essentially a much greater amount of it ends up staying here, either by reverting straight back to the government in tax (rather than going to the US government), or being spent and then taxed.

    Plus it also means more employment, which means less money has to be spent on unemployment benefits etc.

    Plus it means we actually have more tech ourselves to sell to other countries, meaning more tax and more employment.

    Governments are stupid if they spend massively overseas, the cost/benefit analysis just isn't right for it (same reason they should never, ever offshore anything).

  26. Ed
    Black Helicopters

    @anon LGA boy

    The black choppers whill be arriving shortly....

    and yes they will be Chinooks

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re:Mantis'es true competitor

    Given the projected altitude (55,000 feet) & endurance (24 hours) figures for Mantis, (if it ever flies) it becomes clear that it's nearest competitor is not any of the Predator/Reaper/Skywarrior series, but rather Global Hawk, which I believe retails for some $35 million per unit...

    I suspect that if Mantis ever enters RAF service, it'll be used as a Canberra PR.9 replacement, or as a communications relay, rather than a direct attack unit, though the possibility of fitting 6 Meteors to it, turning it into a standoff interceptor, in a similar fashion to the abandoned Missiler concept that the U.S Navy considered in the 1960's, abeit unmanned, could be interesting indeed...

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