ALTIUS-600: The Modular Drones for Attack, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

A light vehicle fitted with a pair of Pneumatically Integrated Launch Systems (PILS) launches an ALTIUS-600 as part of a U.S. Army test A light vehicle fitted with a pair of Pneumatically Integrated Launch Systems (PILS) launches an ALTIUS-600 as part of a U.S. Army test
A light vehicle fitted with a pair of Pneumatically Integrated Launch Systems (PILS) launches an ALTIUS-600 as part of a U.S. Army test (Photo: U.S. Army)

The ALTIUS-600 is a compact unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of American origin with versatile deployment capabilities from air, sea, or ground-based launch systems. Area-I, a US-based aerospace company specializing in unmanned aircraft technology, developed the drone. The ALTIUS-600 is part of the ALTIUS family of drones, which stands for “air-launched, tube-integrated, unmanned system.”

Introduction

The ALTIUS-600 UAS is designed to provide real-time intelligence-gathering capabilities. It can be integrated with and launched from various military aircraft, such as the C-130A, P-3 Orion, AC-130J, and UH-60. Moreover, it can be launched from civilian aircraft, ground vehicles, and sea-based platforms, making it a versatile choice for various applications.

This unmanned aircraft has many potential applications, including counter-unmanned aircraft systems (CUAS), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), signals and intelligence (SIGINT) collection, and electronic warfare. As a result, the Ukrainian army became the first to employ the ALTIUS-600 for multipurpose tasks.

Flight tests

In March 2021, the ALTIUS-600 drone achieved another milestone by successfully launching from the internal weapons bay of the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie long-range combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The test was carried out by Area-I, Kratos, and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at the US Army Yuma Proving Ground test range in Arizona, US.

The ALTIUS-600 was test-launched from the US Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle in June 2020, proving its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and ability to locate and transmit information about enemy targets.

A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter launches an ALTIUS-600 via a Common Launch Tube (CLT) during a test
A U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter launches an ALTIUS-600 via a Common Launch Tube (CLT) during a test (Photo: U.S. Army)

In March 2020, the ALTIUS-600 was also launched from the US Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift helicopter at the Yuma Proving Ground in a flight demonstration led by the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center. These tests demonstrate the versatility of the ALTIUS-600, as it can be launched from various military aircraft and perform a wide range of tasks, including intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, and target location.

Design

The ALTIUS-600 UAS is a compact unmanned aircraft system, measuring 1 meter in length, with a wingspan of 2.54 meters, and weighing 12.25 kilograms (27 pounds). It has a sleek airframe and an inverted V-tail design. Additionally, the unmanned aircraft is designed for recoverability and can land on any flat terrain.

The drone’s flexibility is demonstrated in its ability to be deployed from various platforms, such as ground vehicles, fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and maritime vessels. This is achieved using launch systems such as the common launch tube (CLT) and the pneumatically integrated launch system (PILS). Upon ejection from the launch tube, the aircraft’s wings unfold swiftly.

Altius-600 during the flight (intelligence)
Altius-600 during the flight (Photo: Area-I)

The ALTIUS-600 UAS can be operated manually by its operator, using a handheld remote control system or pre-programmed by a ground control station to operate autonomously following a series of waypoints. These features make the ALTIUS-600 UAS a versatile tool for various applications, from intelligence gathering to combat operations.

Payloads

The ALTIUS-600 UAS has a modular payload system, with a payload capacity of up to 3.17 kilograms (7 pounds) in its nose section. The modular design allows for easy integration of different instruments such as counter unmanned aircraft system (CUAS) jammers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), signals intelligence (SIGINT), and electronic warfare (EW) systems. This enables the unmanned aircraft to perform a variety of missions.

Moreover, the ALTIUS-600 UAS can be armed with a high explosive or shaped charge warhead, which can be fitted to strike targets opportunistically. Along with mission instruments, unmanned aircraft carry video cameras or other sensors to capture imagery and video.

These features make the ALTIUS-600 UAS highly adaptable to various applications, including intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and a counter-unmanned aircraft system (CUAS). Its highly versatile design enables the aircraft to be easily reconfigured for different missions.

Performance

The ALTIUS-600 drone is powered by a two-blade propeller mounted at the aircraft’s rear in a pusher configuration. The drone can reach cruising speeds of 60 kilometers per hour and maximum speeds of 90 kilometers per hour. The unmanned aircraft system has a range of 440 kilometers. It can execute missions for up to four hours, making it an ideal choice for intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and counter-unmanned aircraft system (CUAS) missions.

The ALTIUS-600’s design, with its sleek airframe and inverted V-tail, allows for efficient flight and maneuverability, enabling the aircraft to cover large areas and gather data from hard-to-reach places. Additionally, the drone’s recoverable design allows it to land on any flat terrain, making it easy to retrieve and reuse for subsequent missions.

ALTIUS Family

Area-I is the developer of the ALTIUS family of drones, which includes the ALTIUS-600, ALTIUS-500, and ALTIUS-900. The ALTIUS-500 is the miniature version of the ALTIUS-600, with half its size, a range of about 160km, and an endurance of two hours. The larger version, ALTIUS-900, weighs 36.3kg (80lb), has a range of 1,000km, and can stay in the air for more than 15 hours. Besides, Area-I also created the PTERA flying laboratory, which has a maximum weight of 136kg (300lb) and a payload capacity of up to 22.7kg (50lb).

Area-I was acquired by Anduril Industries, a defense technologies provider, in April 2021.

Altius-600M Loitering munition

The ALTIUS-600M variant of the kamikaze drone was announced in April 2021 as an exclusive option for the Ukrainians. The drone can be equipped with different warheads, including cumulative warheads for destroying tanks, self-propelled howitzers, and aerosol (thermobaric) warheads for neutralizing people in trenches and bunkers. The ALTIUS-600M has a range of 440 km and retains the modular design of the original model, allowing for various adaptations. As a kamikaze drone, it can be guided to the target in the final stage of flight by its camera system and carry a warhead weighing up to three kilograms. The drone’s impressive range makes it an effective weapon for destroying artillery and a valuable asset for military operations.

Technical Specifications

Type:small unmanned aircraft system
Developer:Area-I
Gross weight:12.25 kg (27.0 lb)
Payload capacity:3.17 kg (7.0 lb)
Cruising speed:60 km/h (37 mph)
Range:440 km (270 mi)
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