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“Amazon on the battlefield”: US Army fly hoverbike

18 January 2017

On January 10, the US Army Research Laboratory tested the flying capabilities of a novel rectangular-shaped quadcopter for use on the battlefield.

Army researchers and industry partners fly a prototype rectangular-shaped quadcopter during a visit from DOD officials to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Jan. 10, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Jhi Scott)

Also known as a hoverbike, the vehicle may one day make it possible for soldiers to send and receive supplies straight from the battlefield.

Dr. William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office at the Office of the Secretary of Defence and members of his staff visited the laboratory to see the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV.

During the visit, Roper told laboratory officials that he is concerned about adopting future technology advances. He said he wants to figure out how to get people to "see something that's coming on the shelf, immediately identify the use, determine if it's good enough for rock and roll, get it into the field, but in way that allows us to keep one-upping it."

Researchers see a future JTARV flying low to the ground or at thousands of feet at speeds of 60mph or more.

"Anywhere on the battlefield, soldiers can potentially get resupplied in less than 30 minutes," said Tim Vong, associate chief of ARL's Protection Division. He likened the concept to "Amazon on the battlefield."

While the current prototype is electric, researchers are looking at a hybrid propulsion system that may dramatically increase range.

"We're exploring increasing payload capacity to 363kg and extending the range up to 125 miles," Vong said. "We're also looking to integrate advanced intelligent navigation and mission planning. We're looking to end up with a modular, stable platform that can be used for even more dynamic and challenging missions."

The manufacturer, Malloy Aeronautics and systems integrator, SURVICE started working with the US Army in 2014. They soon signed a contract and moved from the concept stage into full-scale prototypes. 

Video courtesy of U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

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