A drone-based on the MV-22B Osprey design, providing vital data to carrier groups and supporting counter-attacks, might be the new guardian of naval fleets. This fleet-guarding drone, Bell’s V-247 Vigilant, can operate from ships and hover in the air for about 10 hours. It is an autonomous tilt-rotor drone similar to the size of a Huey helicopter. A prototype of the aircraft was on display for the second year during an expo.

The aircraft is suitable to protect the Marines and sailors at sea as the services prepare to operate in more contested environments, Jason Hurst, Bell’s V-247 Vigilant program manager, informed. “A lot of their focus has been with targeting so the ability to get sensors over the horizon and provide targeting information to the ship to help paint the picture,” he said.

fleet-guarding drone
The V-247 Vigilant drone by Bell

A highly advanced vertical lift UAV

The navy is, in fact, more determined in the drone’s ability to send information back to the ship. The V-247 is a contender in the Marine Corps’ MUX program, which stands for Marine Air-Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System-Expeditionary. The fleet-guarding drone should be in the air by 2026. It will be able to operate apace with manned aircraft, provide air support, fly long distances and carry a full payload.
The V-247 can carry Hellfire missiles, torpedoes, jamming pods, and air-to-air missiles. While it’s still in the prototype phase, Hurst said Bell officials think they can keep the price around the Marines’ target of $25 million.

“This would be the seventh tilt-rotor we have built, so a lot of our advantage is in the know-how and the proven technology we have both from the V-22 and its almost 500,000 flight hours, as well as the V-280 that we’re using for our technology pipeline, which has amassed about 100 flight hours as a prototype for the Army Future Vertical Lift program.”