Autonomous Aerial Military Resupply Systems Demonstrated

By Mike Ball / 28 Apr 2020

Near Earth Autonomy autonomous landing and cargo resupply UAS

Near Earth Autonomy has developed UAS (unmanned aerial system)-based contingency management systems for the U.S. Army and Marines as part of a Joint Capabilities Technology (JCTD) Unmanned Logistics Systems Aerial (ULS-A) Demonstration. This new improved logistics capability is designed to deliver water, food, fuel, munitions, and medical supplies with greater speed and flexibility while also reducing risk and cost.

Army soldiers and Marines took part in an operational demonstration at Fort AP Hill, Virginia to prove Near Earth’s autonomous resupply technology, which includes obstacle avoidance for safe flight and landing, enabling reliable cargo delivery in dynamic environments. A total of 64 resupply missions were safely executed as part of the demonstration.

American defense leadership is actively exploring innovative new technologies such as autonomous resupply that will support ground convoys and manned aircraft that are currently at risk of attack when carrying out their missions to deliver vital cargo to warfighters. The U.S. military plans to continue collaborating with Near Earth Autonomy to expand their capabilities in this field.

Joe Fagan, ULS-A Operational Manager: commented: “This was the first opportunity for the military users to interact with the ULS-A capability. Whether they were uploading autonomy packages, downloading data, or operating as safety pilots, I was continually impressed with the breadth and depth of the Near Earth Autonomy Team.”

Robert McKinney, Technical Manager for (ULS-A) JCTD, Marine Corp Warfighter Lab, stated: “From a logistics standpoint, the Marines are looking to deliver small to medium weight supplies like water, beans, and ammunition to forward operating bases. We’re looking at fully autonomous rather than just manually operated vehicles. Without a man in the loop, losses are minimal and there are no humans at risk.”

Master Gunnery Sergeant Ulrich said, “We can apply this capability and really help out the warfighter. I see a lot of applications in delivering in austere environments. In this way we’ll keep trucks off the road, we’ll keep Marines off the road and use technology to our advantage so that our troops can get what they need when they need it.”

“I think the Marines are adapting to the platforms because it is generationally relevant. The Marines of today look at it as something that enables them to do their job in a streamlined way. The training is minimal enough to allow them to adapt quickly. It’s able to help them stay out of the firefight themselves and they’ve responded by executing almost flawlessly.”

I see the future of ULS-A eventually evolving into a medium-size platform that’s able to provide a diverse distribution portfolio. Within the JCTD year two and three, we’ll be looking at bigger, faster, stronger, platforms, meaning more battery life, more distribution capability, and overall increasing the ability to keep the warfighter in the fight.”

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact