Move over Amazon, the Army also wants to deliver supplies with drones

At the start of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, two of the villains were arguing about taking on a high-risk mission.

“Send the droid,” one of them says.

Well, if the Army has its way and a new prototype unmanned plane enters the arsenal, “send in the droid” could have a whole new meaning for todays soldiers and other troops.

Over the last few months, the Army has begun preliminary tests on a new prop-driven drone dubbed the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, or JTARV at Aberdeen Proving Ground and Picatinny Arsenal.

The Army wants to develop the JTARV for unmanned resupply missions.

(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

The service realizes resupply convoys can be vulnerable to attack. An Army Research Laboratory release from earlier this month noted that 60 percent of the combat casualties in 2013 occurred during resupply missions. Yet, the resupply of troops is crucial — especially in the heat of combat.

During the 1993 firefight in Mogadishu, for example, helicopters re-supplied the Rangers who were protecting the crash site of Super Six-One at substantial risk.

Had the JTARV prototypes been available, instead of sending manned choppers, a drone could have delivered 300 pounds of ammo and gear (like night-vision devices, grenades, and MREs) without risking a downed crew.

Time to get the supplies? About a half-hour.

See if Domino’s can beat that!

Improved versions of the JTARV could haul even more supplies – about 800 pounds – and take them further, with a total range of 125 miles. This could be very useful for long-range reconnaissance patrols or for resupplying remote outposts like those once manned by soldiers in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.

The JTARV is a combined project from SURVICE Engineering Company and Malloy Aerospace. Malloy is a British company which is best known for making the Hoverbike. The Hoverbike is, in essence, a one-person helicopter that can travel about 92 miles, and looks like a very primitive version of the speeder bikes used in Return of the Jedi.

SURVICE Engineering is a Maryland-based defense contractor that has supported research and development for the Pentagon. Located near Aberdeen Proving Ground, SURVICE Engineering has been involved in supporting the development of technology for land combat forces.

The Marine Corps has already been in the unmanned cargo delivery game for a while. An unmanned version of the Kaman K-Max helicopter was used for re-supply missions from December 2011 to May 2014 during Operation Enduring Freedom. The K-Max has a range of 267 miles and can deliver up to 6,000 pounds of cargo while flying at speeds of up to 115 mph.

Boeing has also been developing the H-6U Unmanned Little Bird for this mission as well, trying to leverage the proven track record of the OH-6 Cayuse scout helicopter and the AH-6/MH-6 Little Bird choppers used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the Nightstalkers) in American military service.

The H-6U’s case is also assisted by the widespread ownership of the MD 500 series of helicopters across the globe for both civilian and military applications. This means that spare parts are readily available (not a small consideration for military operations). The H-6U would be faster with a top speed of 175 miles per hour, but could only haul about 1,500 pounds of cargo over the same 267 mile range.

Things are changing, but the one thing that remains the same is the need for the troops to be resupplied. But instead of asking for volunteers, soon a general’s response may well be, “Send the droid.”

TOP ARTICLES
How North Korean special operators plan to invade the South via paragliders

North Korean special operators may be planning to paraglide into South Korea in an attack the country simulated in mid-September, according to South Korea.

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Still a few years out from the Manhattan Project being completed, a dentist / mad scientist came up with a disastrous and inhumane plan — the "bat bomb."

These are the contenders flying off to replace the A-10

Four planes are flying off for the chance to try to replace the beloved A-10 Thunderbolt. Here's how they hold up.

This was a major problem with the South Vietnamese army

"Be glad to trade you some ARVN rifles. Ain't never been fired and only dropped once." — Cowboy from "Full Metal Jacket."

9 reasons why you should have joined the Army instead

The only down side is knowing that when you get out, you will never be as cool as you were when you were doing "Hooah things" with your boys.

7 things all troops should know before becoming a sniper

With Hollywood tapping into the sniper lifestyle with films like "American Sniper," many young troops get a misconception what it's like to be one.

The first home-built Japanese supersonic fighter was a ship-killer

The Mitsubishi F-1 was designed to carry out the maritime strike mission, but also could carry AIM-9 Sidewinders.

This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban for five years after walking off his post in Afghanistan, is expected to plead guilty.

Say hello to America's newest 40mm grenade machine gun

The Mk-47 Mod 0 Advanced Grenade Launcher takes the auto 40 mike-mike to a whole new level.

10 craptastic Halloween costumes completely out of regulations

It's that time of year again! Halloween parties are being planned and folks who wouldn't hack it in the real military pick up cheap ass costumes.