First Ever Drone Delivery Made to Submarine at Sea

By Naomi Charlton / 31 Oct 2019
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Skyfront drone delivery to US Navy submarine

Skyfront’s gas-electric hybrid Perimeter multirotor UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) has become the first drone to make a delivery to a U.S. Navy submarine at sea. The drone was flown over a mile from Oahu, Hawaii to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii, carrying a 5-pound package containing circuit cards, medical supplies, and food.

The project was developed by the Innovation Lab (iLab) at Commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), in conjunction with the University of Hawaii. Submarine sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor formed a UAV squadron, undertaking training to become proficient drone pilots and developing the concept of converting a UAV and a submarine sail into a package delivery and receiving platform.

The solution involved the use of a ‘snag’ pole and specially designed payload release mechanism on the drone. Prototypes were tested on the back of trucks and jeeps, and then on a small patrol boat operating out of Pearl Harbor. The final system performed perfectly, safely delivering the payload onboard the submarine.

Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Keithley, assigned to COMSUBPAC, said: “What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability. A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”

“I am very proud of the joint effort and the capability they have created out of nearly thin air. The success of this project is a true testament to the ingenuity of our team and I am very thankful for them and our submarine sailors, who volunteered their time to make it a success.”

Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet, commented: “Our sailors are visionaries. Their ideas benefit the submarine force, making an incredible difference. We are already seeing the impact that this one idea can have on the entire fleet. The joint effort between the sailors at COMSUBPAC and the University of Hawaii has resulted in delivering necessary supplies to submarines that can save time and money, allowing us to stay in the fight.”

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