The field of unmanned air vehicles is a crowded one to be sure. For its part, the storied aero-concern of Northrop Grumman has been steadily developing a slew of reusable UAV types for various combat and non-combat roles. The "Bat" is one of the company's offerings - billed as a multi-mission, medium-altitude tactical-level Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) suitable for reconnaissance roles in both warfare and peacetime. The Bat system has already been proven in combat environments such as "Operation Enduring Freedom" (Afghanistan) in support of intelligence-gathering actions.
The Bat is a UAS product originally offered by Swift Engineering with rights to the air vehicle purchased by Northrop Grumman and the vehicle subsequently renamed as the "Bat" in April of 2009.
The Bat utilizes a blended "wing-body" design which makes it nearly a flying wing - the only vertical planes are located at the extreme ends of each mainplane. The wings contour elegantly into the fuselage, which is pointed at its nose, and provides enhanced aerodynamic efficiency while also improving operational range. The optics/sensor kit is fitted under the "chin" section of the fuselage for unfettered views of the action below. At the rear of the aircraft is its powerplant, a single Hirth-branded engine used to drive a five-bladed propeller unit in "pusher" fashion. Performance from the engine allows the aircraft to reach speeds over 100 miles-per-hour and fly for up to eighteen hours up to an altitude of 17,000 feet.
Overall length of the drone reaches 12 feet while its wingspan measures 14 feet. Gross weight is rated at 350 lb. The payload limit is 125 lb. Its compactness allows this drone to be hauled by air in the belly of a Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" transport, Bell-Boeing MV-22 "Osprey" tilt-rotor transport, and conventional medium-lift/medium-class rotorcraft or along the ground by way of HUMVEE vehicle or similar.
The multi-mission aspect of this UAS is its ability to be rapidly outfitted for various roles such as SIGnals INTelligence (SIGINT), Electronic Warfare (EW), COMMunications RELay (COMMREL), maritime surveillance, and Search and Rescue (SAR). This sort of inherent modularity breeds tactical flexibility for any operator. The Bat can operate through fully-autonomy. It is catapult-launched for simplicity by way of a mobile launcher unit (which can be seated on a vehicle) - as such it does not require a prepared runaway. Recovery is by an erected net, allowing the system to be wholly-reclaimable and reusable.