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Navy’s drone tech showcased at Yeovilton alongside vintage predecessor

16 August 2023
Walrus, meet Walrus.

This is how far naval aviation has come in nine decades. In the foreground, the future: a Walrus drone, designed and built by Royal Navy experts like Leading Air Engineering Technician Dan Barton.

And looming over Dan and the octocopter, a Supermarine Walrus flying boat, mainstay of major warship operations in the 1930s and into the first half of WW2.
The amphibian – over 37ft long, weighing more than three tonnes, crew of four – was launched from cruisers and battleships on numerous duties: gunnery spotting, over-the-horizon reconnaissance, search and rescue.

Its successor, currently being trialled by the RN’s dedicated drone squadron, 700X, based at Culdrose, requires one operator, weighs a mere 20kg, and acts as a prototype for drones which could be used for sustained reconnaissance/gunnery spotting/observation… but not search and rescue (although other crewless systems are being considered for that role).

The vintage Walrus (which actually served with the Irish military) can be seen at the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

When the Yeovilton museum hosted a Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) event for local schoolchildren and teachers, 700X seized the opportunity to demonstrate the drones they operate and experiment with.

“While we were expecting a crowd, we certainly weren’t expecting a constant stream of over 1,000 visitors,” said museum curator Fiona Taylor.

“LAET Barton showcased 700X by bringing three drones and using them to answer all the public’s questions about the practical uses of drones in the military. He was very professional, knowledgeable and he remained enthusiastic throughout the day.”

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