Anduril Introduces Jet-Powered AI Drone to Counter Aerial Threats

Anduril has developed a new combat drone, Roadrunner, equipped with jet power and AI capabilities to counter low-cost, sophisticated aerial threats.


Combat Drone Roadrunner Designed to Counter Aerial Threats

Anduril, a defense contractor founded by Palmer Luckey in 2017, has unveiled its latest product, Roadrunner, a combat drone powered by jet engines and controlled by AI. The inspiration behind the creation of Roadrunner came from the increasing threat of low-cost, advanced aerial attacks observed in conflicts like the one between Ukrainian and Russian forces, where suicide drones have proven to be highly effective.

According to Christian Brose, Anduril's chief strategy officer, the company identified the emerging problem of cheap, highly sophisticated aerial threats in conflict zones. These threats, including drones like the US-made Switchblades, are capable of evading defense systems and require expensive measures like fighter jets or missiles to neutralize. Roadrunner aims to address this problem with its high-speed, jet-powered performance and autonomous capabilities.

Features and Functionality of Roadrunner

Roadrunner is a modular combat drone with twin jet engines, roughly the size of a patio heater. It is designed to operate at high speeds, take off and land vertically, and return to base when not required. The version specifically developed for countering drones and missiles can autonomously detect and engage threats. While the system can operate autonomously, it still requires human operators to make decisions regarding the use of deadly force.

Anduril has built Roadrunner to be highly adaptable, with the ability to receive software upgrades for new capabilities. The company emphasizes the importance of human involvement in the decision-making process for identifying and classifying threats, as well as taking responsibility for any actions taken against those threats.

Potential Applications in the Ukraine Conflict

Samuel Bendett, an expert on military drone usage, believes that Roadrunner could be deployed in Ukraine to intercept Iranian-made Shahed drones used by Russian forces. Both sides in the conflict are utilizing drones throughout a comprehensive 'kill chain,' involving consumer drones for target acquisition and subsequent suicide drones for attacks. Bendett suggests that innovations in the US military sphere are likely to be influenced by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine has become a testing ground for various drone technologies, including naval drones and AI systems for targeting and control. While there have been reports of lethal autonomous weapons being used in the conflict, Bendett has yet to confirm these claims.