Leading defense technology startup Anduril has developed a new product designed to deal with the proliferation of low-cost, high-powered aerial threats.
The product is called Roadrunner, a modular, twin-jet powered autonomous vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle designed for low cost. Anduril has also developed a variant called the Roadrunner-Munition, or Roadrunner-M, a “high-explosive interceptor,” meaning it can carry a warhead and destroy aerial threats as well.
The Roadrunner is unique in appearance and capabilities: it can take-off, follow, and destroy targets; if there is no need to intercept the target, the vehicle can autonomously maneuver back to base for refueling and reuse. As Anduril’s chief strategy officer Chris Brose said in a recent interview, “We’re building a weaponized fighter jet that goes down like a Falcon 9.”
The product was built in response to the rise of fast-moving, autonomous aerial weapons that can be produced in high volume and at very low cost, a new type of threat, Brose said. Unlike other current solutions, and the legacy missile systems that preceded them, the Roadrunner-M is also reusable.
“I think it’s the first removable weapon that’s been fielded,” Brose said. “That’s a beautiful thing. The ability to deploy (…) recover it and use it again if you don’t use it in an operation to kill another drone, completely changes how operators fight with this capability . Now, they have a limited number of interceptors and if they decide to hit go, they won’t get it.
There are some other major improvements over legacy systems, Anduril says: faster launch and take-off times, three times greater warhead loading capacity, ten times the effective range, and three times greater maneuvering G-forces. Like the rest of Anduril’s family of systems, Roadrunner-M can be controlled by Lattice, Andruil’s AI-powered command and control software, or integrated into existing architectures.
Another big advantage is the operator: when faced with a fast-moving threat, the Roadrunner can launch immediately, image it, and then receive a signal whether to engage or not. Because the product is reusable and recoverable, operators can operate without fear of losing a valuable asset.
Brose said the company has been working in lock-step with an unnamed U.S. government partner since it began designing the Roadrunner about two years ago.
“(National defense) often rightly gets the stereotype for being stodgy, too slow, too unimaginative, too unexciting,” Brose said. “I think as a company Anduril is the opposite of that and the Roadrunner is the embodiment of the kind of passion that we believe there is in national defense and we’re excited to try to bring it back.”