In the United States, the commercial drone market brought in more than $20 billion in 2020. Enterprises like agriculture, utilities, research, logistic, and real estate were all large supporters of the growing industry. However, military branches continue to represent the US’s largest contributor to the drone market.
One of the US military’s primary drone suppliers is Raytheon Technologies. Based out of Cambridge, MA, the 100 year old company has been the 5th largest military contract holder in the world since 2012. In 2015, Raytheon acquired the company that was developing a small expendable drone known as the Coyote. For military organizations, having cost efficient expendable drones are of great importance. Many of the operations in which drones are used are single use situations. And while the Coyote costs around $20,000 it is far less than the US military drone workhorse, the Reaper, which costs more than $60 million.
The Coyote is launched from a mobile sonobuoy canister that can be placed on a ship, aircraft, or truck. Weighing only 13lbs, multiple Coyotes can be easily and quickly managed by a single operator. Shaped like a missile, the drone is only 36 in long. After being launched, the drone’s wings extend with a wingspan of 58 in. With air speeds of 55-70 knots, the drone can reach altitudes of 30,000 ft over a 70 nautical mile range, and remain airborne for over an hour. The Coyote has seen success as an intelligence drone for the military, but they recently began exploring ways of using the drone defensively against enemy drones.
Outfitted with the US military’s C-UAS (Counter Unmanned Air System), Coyote can intercept small drones. By getting close enough to a drone, the expendable Coyote then employs a kinetic effect, an explosion, to stop the enemy drone. The Kamikaze drone is effective because it doesn’t need to be precise in taking down a drone as its blast is large enough to eliminate a swarm of enemy drones. Working with the U.S. Army’s Integrated Fires and Rapid Capabilities Office, Raytheon helped develop a more enhanced system called the Coyote Block 2. This system incorporates highly tuned sensors to identify and target enemy drones, a stronger propulsion system, avoidance mechanisms, and swarm capabilities.
On January 7, 2022, Raytheon released a test video of the Coyote Block 2 that had been conducted over 10 days this past summer at the Yuma Proving Ground, AZ. The goal of the test, according to a Raytheon statement, was to address one of the US Army’s primary concerns, “the proliferation of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, and the cost of defeating them with traditional defense systems.” The video shows the impressive ability of the system to autonomously launch, track and eliminate single and swarms of drones. “Together with our Army partners, we showcased the maturity and lethality of our Counter-UAS systems against single and multiple drone threats to both U.S. and international customers,” said Abel Ghanooni, senior director for Short Range Air Defense and Rapid Development Programs at Raytheon Missiles & Defense. He went on to say that the next step would be to prepare the system for deployment around the world to protect assets.