What is the Anduril Roadrunner? America’s latest game-changing weapon

Last week, the defense technology company Anduril Industries revealed details about its sophisticated new drone known as the Roadrunner.

The unique system, which is designed to take down missiles or other drones as well as perform reconnaissance missions, is described by Anduril as a “twin-jet powered autonomous air vehicle.” Various media outlets have also referred to it as a “drone killer,” while the Los Angeles Times called it “a novel combination of AI-powered drone, bomb and boomerang.”

The six-foot, winged Roadrunner can take off and land vertically, and it explodes itself on impact like a guided missile. However, should the Roadrunner miss its intended target, it can fly back to its original launching point—hence, the boomerang comparison.

Palmer Luckey, founder of the California-based Anduril Industries, told the Los Angeles Times that his company has already sold a “handful” of Roadrunners to a U.S. government agency.

Anduril Industries’ new Roadrunner drone is seen in a photo distributed by the company. The Roadrunner has been touted as a technological breakthrough.
Anduril Industries

In a Monday story about the Roadrunner, the website Special Operations Forces Report (SOFREP) called the drone controlled by AI software “a bold leap forward in autonomous technology.

“These cutting-edge, uncrewed systems mark a paradigm shift in aerial capabilities, offering a compelling glimpse into the future of defense technology and a versatile solution to contemporary security challenges,” SOFREP wrote.

SOFREP also went into detail about one of the drone’s variants known as the Roadrunner-M, which is said to be modified to be an even more effective “high-explosive interceptor with an unparalleled ability to swiftly identify, intercept and neutralize a wide array of aerial threats.”

“Roadrunner-M is the thing that is today…effectively a kamikaze craft when you actually want to use it,” Luckey told DefenseScoop. “If you decide that it is going to take out the [threat], then yeah, it takes itself out.”

Anduril credits much of the Roadrunner’s capabilities to a processing system that features state-of-the-art sensors to better identify targets.

Another big selling point that should appeal to buyers—perhaps including the U.S. Department of Defense at some point—is that the Roadrunner-M can be re-deployed for multiple missions when it’s not being launched in a kamikaze scenario. As SOFREP wrote, “the Roadrunner-M’s reusable nature enables large-scale defensive launches at meager costs.”

Currently, the system costs in the low hundreds of thousands per vehicle, but SOREP said Anduril indicated the price could eventually come down.

“The Roadrunner marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of autonomous systems,” SOFREP said. “The unveiling of the Roadrunner beckons an era where autonomy and versatility converge to redefine the landscape of aerial defense, promising a future where adaptability, precision and efficiency are at the forefront of defense technology.”