The defense startup company Anduril has unveiled a new, reusable, autonomous drone called "Roadrunner-Munition" it says is already under contract with a U.S. government customer that executives have declined to disclose.
However, Palmer Luckey, the company’s founder and Chris Brose, Anduril’s chief strategy officer, told reporters earlier this week that the Defense Department has followed the product on its two-year journey.
The Roadrunner, Luckey and Brose said, is a vertical-takeoff-and-landing drone that costs in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars and has been operationally tested.
“Our priority has been moving very, very fast with this customer,” Luckey said. “We’re now well into the process of cost reduction.”
The company says it should have no trouble scaling Roadrunner for mass production, noting the recent hire of former Tesla executive Keith Flynn as the new senior vice president of manufacturing.
Luckey and Brose said Roadrunner could be a candidate for DOD’s new Replicator program, but the executives noted details remain scarce.
For now, Luckey said, Replicator is “more of an idea” than a specific acquisition program.
Roadrunner, meanwhile, is being billed as an air defense product that can unburden the far-more-expensive Patriot system when it comes to detecting and destroying incoming airborne threats.
Anduril says the drone is reusable unless it is used by an operator to destroy an incoming target, in which case it becomes a kamikaze munition.
“It’s somewhere between a reusable missile and a full-scale autonomous aircraft,” Luckey said.
The weapon is intended to give operators “the ability to preemptively and speculatively deploy large numbers of anti-air interceptors,” he said, thus buying time to determine how “munitions that are required to defeat whatever the threat is while returning all of the rest.”