Airbus A400M Airlifter Launches Drone in Mid-Flight for the First Time

A400M airlifter 6 photos
Photo: Airbus
Airbus A400M deploys drone in mid-airAirbus A400M airlifterAirbus Do-DT25 droneAirbus Do-DT25 droneAirbus Do-DT25 drone
An Airbus A400M "Atlas" multi-role airlifter has deployed a drone in mid-flight for the first time. This successful demonstration takes the aircraft one step closer to providing a critical function for a Future Combat Air System.
The A400M is considered the world's most advanced airlifter, capable of doing the work of three types of aircraft. It has the ability to transport crucial cargo, deliver to tactical locations, and serve as a frontline tanker.

Recently, the A400M proved that it can launch an unmanned aerial vehicle mid-flight as well. A flight test crew from the German Air Force and Airbus worked together for this demonstration. The airlifter, which took off with an Airbus-built Do-DT25 drone onboard, opened its rear cargo ramp door whilst airborne and then successfully launched the unmanned vehicle.

The drone, which served as a stand-in for a Remote Carrier, was deployed over northern Germany. Its parachute was deployed shortly after, safely dropping it to the ground. Throughout the exercise, the drone stayed connected to its mother aircraft, the A400M, and transferred data to it with the help of the new Modular Airborne Combat Cloud Services (MACCS).

This test validates the capability of the airlifter to successfully launch other unmanned aircraft mid-flight. Such unmanned aircraft, known as Remote Carriers, will be capable of operating in the future with manned aircraft, adding efficiency to the missions and increasing pilot safety. This manned-unmanned teaming will be a key component of Future Combat Air Systems (FCAS).

Airbus will continue to validate the A400M as an aerial launch platform for Remote Carriers. Ultimately, the large cargo compartment of the multi-role airlifter is expected to be able to house more than 40 Remote Carriers.

Airbus says that "an A400M will provide the numbers in terms of flying platforms for a Future Combat System to serve multiple missions, even in a well-protected environment." The company plans to conduct the next flight test later this year.

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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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