ULTRA, the US Air Force’s new low-cost drone that can fly for more than 3 days at a time

ULTRAacronym in English for Unmanned Long-Endurance Tactical Reconnaissance Aircraftis the name of the new drone made by DZYNE for the United States Air Force and whose first images, which show that it is already operational in the Middle East, were recently published by the US. In these, this drone could be seen, equipped with an extraordinary autonomy and is presented as an economic alternative to expensive drones. MQ-9 Reaper used by the Air Force and Marine Corps for surveillance, in a series of images at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

Before they were published, DZYNE had remained silent on the progress of this program because he was working directly with warfighters on ‘active missions’has pointed out Matt McCueCEO of DZYNE, told DefenseOne. According to budget documents, the U.S. Air Force included 4 drones ULTRA in the 2025 budget. Its cost, a total of 35 million dollarswhich is a little more than what a single MQ-9 Reaper costs, at 30 million a unit.

McCue has also claimed that with ULTRA’s long-endurance capability, the US military could fly the drone from Sigonella, Italy, for example, and still carry out missions over Africa. This would allow the US Army to fly over ‘multiple COCOMs from a single location, which It’s not something that’s been available to commanders before.‘. The acronym COCOM corresponds to the unified military commands of the United States Department of Defense responsible for military operations in geographic areas globally.

ULTRA.DZYNE Technologies

The drone has been conceived by the Rapid Innovation CenterCRI for its acronym in English, of the Air Force Research LaboratoryAFRL, and developed in conjunction with DZYNE Technologies.

One of the peculiarities of ULTRA is that It is manufactured by repurposing a previously manned commercial sport glider and converting it into a military-hardened unmanned aerial vehicle.according to AFRL, which defines it as an ultra-long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform.

It can fly for more than 80 hours without recharging. and carry a payload of up to 181 kg. It features electro-optical/infrared intelligence gathering sensors, EO/IRradio frequency, RFand other low-cost ones that provide A reconfigurable platform for diverse missions.

The ULTRA drone photographed at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.
The ULTRA drone photographed at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.Sgt. Kregg York.Dvids.

The secret behind the low-cost drone is the use of commercial UAS technology, existing manufacturing and supply channels, and custom avionics to ensure that costs are kept low. The drone is also capable of operating at lower altitudesreducing the need for expensive, large optics or high-power radio frequency to be effective.

‘The ULTRA system is truly unique in its ability to overcome the tyranny of distance. which inhibits the operational use of current unmanned platforms at excessive ranges required in areas of operations such as the Pacific‘, says the AFRL. It may also be operated worldwide via satellite-based command and control links, and can send data to the command center in real time.