Air Force plans recoverable hypersonic drones by 2040

Unmanned Systems

Air Force plans recoverable hypersonic drones by 2040

Air Force weapons developers expect to operate hypersonic intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance drones by the 2040s, once scientific progress with autonomy and propulsion technology matures to a new level.

The advent of using a recoverable drone platform able to travel at high altitudes, faster than Mach 5, will follow the emergence of hypersonic weapons likely to be operational in the mid-2020s, according to the Air Force Chief Scientist Geoffrey Zacharias.

Describing the trajectory of hypersonic technology in terms of “stair steps,” Zacharias said incremental progress will require decades of continued technological development.

While unmanned hypersonic surveillance flight is on track for the 2030s, launching recoverable hypersonic drones is not expected be possible until the 2040s, Zacharias said.

Since hypersonic vehicles can travel in a parabola-type flight path, they rise very high up into the

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