COSTA MESA, California—Anduril Industries has introduced two new jet-powered drones, the Roadrunner and Roadrunner M, the latter of which carries an explosive charge to destroy enemy drones or aircraft.
“This is a totally new category of weapon that has never existed before now,” said Anduril founder Palmer Luckey, speaking to reporters ahead of the product reveal. He described Roadrunner as “somewhere between a reusable missile and autonomous vehicle.”
Roadrunner and its explosive sibling are twin-jet powered vehicles (“the most power-dense turbo jet engines that have ever been built,” Luckey said) that can take off and land vertically. The company did not disclose many performance parameters of the systems, including range and top speed, but Luckey said they fly at “high sub-sonic speed.”
Anduril has already introduced an explosive variant of its Anvil counter-UAS drone, but Roadrunner is much faster and capable of taking on larger targets, including manned aircraft.
The company has been working on the system for just under two years, “a two-year sprint from a flat start,” according to Chief Strategy Officer Christian Brose, and has a government customer that’s already using it, which was not named. Anduril plans to go into low-rate initial production to build hundreds of units.
The vehicles cost in the “low hundreds of thousands” now, Luckey said, but the more of them the company makes, the cheaper they will get. “All the things that are expensive on it are the things that get cheaper when you build a lot of them,” he said.
Brose said a chief advantage of Roadrunner and Roadrunner M is rather than launching multiple interceptors at one threat, a user could deploy multiple Roadrunners to loiter. If no strike against a threat is needed, they could return home.
The company spent its own money developing the system, but Brose said the U.S. government has been aware of what the company is doing and has been part of it “every step of the way.”
“They’re making sure we don’t just build the Batmobile, something cool that nobody needs,” Luckey said.
The system also has a variety of potential uses outside the defense world, Luckey said, and is Anduril’s entry in the XPrize Foundation’s new XPrize Wildfire challenge to use technology to combat wildfires.