The US Navy is assessing the feasibility of using Unmanned Air System (UAS) for transporting cargo between two vessels or from a ship to shore.
The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) has recently acquired a logistics UAS prototype to demonstrate the transfer of cargo over long ranges using autonomous drones at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.
The air vehicle, named Blue Water Maritime Logistics UAS, is currently being evaluated by NAWCAD engineers, testers and military test pilots.
The vehicle will also be upgraded to meet the requirements set by Military Sealift (MSC) and Fleet Forces Command (FFC).
Historical data from navy casualty reports have shown that logistics-related issues are one of the key reasons that force ships to move to non-mission capable or partially mission capable status.
Around 90% of these cases involve logistical deliveries weighing less than 50lb.
Tactical aircraft, such as the H-60 helicopter and V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, are currently used for these missions.
The US Navy plans to use autonomous vehicles for these logistical missions, a move that is expected to reduce cost and inefficiency associated with these tasks.
Blue Water project lead Bill Macchione said: “This requirement is unlike other cargo requirements that online retailers like Amazon are exploring.
“Naval cargo transport requires vehicles that can successfully operate through difficult environments that include heavy winds, open water and pitching vessels at sea.”
After the necessary upgrades, the UAS will be transported to the Atlantic for assessment with the fleet through most of 2021.
The Blue Water Maritime Logistics UAS was selected from more than 65 platforms following a demonstration last year.