The Marine Corps are developing a system of autonomous drones that can be ordered to fly resupply missions and drop critical supplies into dangerous or hard-to-reach areas.
While commercial drone delivery services max out most payloads under 40 lbs., the Marine Corps is requesting a significantly larger, more robust autonomous drone delivery system capable of carrying as much as 500 pounds to Marines no less than 10 km away.
A recent request information posting for the government website FBO.gov with the Marine Corps’ Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons wants the drone delivery vehicle to weigh at most 1,320 pounds, fit into a little vehicle and operate day/night in many different environmental conditions.
It should take at most a half-hour to setup and launch. And it should be operationally ready as early as pick up.
Researchers want multiple deliveries, so they also expect the recovery and turnaround time to be short. And operators will be able to retrieve the drone either autonomously or manually from near where it absolutely was launched.
Some portions of the RFI sounded like work being done through the Navy-Marine Corps program Next Generation Logistics, or NexLog. The program actively seeks logistics innovations and held a public event in March at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to showcase a computerized drone project.
The project, called “Hive Final Mile,” was launched simply by Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Christopher Thobaben, a motor transport officer who works supply chain logistics as part of his civilian life.
Thobaben’s concept, further produced by a team of researchers and engineers with NexLog, uses algorithms to allow for a hive base of drones to hold items such as MREs, water bottles and small medical equipment when needed to Marines inside field, that have the opportunity to order items using the push of a button.
The system can be set to continuously deliver items, for instance creating a pile of MREs with a remote base over one hour with multiple drones streaming on the site.
The main hub can identify what’s for sale in nearby hives and resupply the chain since it delivers, and certain supply stocks dwindle.
The major estimated the system could scale up to “thousands” of drones operating in under two years of further research and development.
However, Jamie Cosgrove, spokeswoman to the Naval Air Systems Command, said how the current RFI is for existing commercial options to deliver items inside the 25- to 500-pound range and is not section of the NexLog program.