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US Navy Trials Logistics Drones for Sea, Land Missions

The US Navy has recently tested unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to resupply front line warfighters.

Tactical Resupply Unmanned Aircraft System (TRUAS) and Blue Water logistics UAS (BWUAS) performed multiple resupply missions during joint trials held by the Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems program office and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD).

Logistics Drones

The TRUAS is a Marine-focused UAS for on-shore “tactical resupply” for goods such as food and tactical gear up to 150 pounds (68 kilograms). The navy-focused Blue Water has a more extended range than the TRUAS but considerably less cargo capacity at 30-50 pounds (13.6-22.6 kg) to better fit onto vessels.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 24 chief test pilot Cmdr. Seth Ervin said the “demonstration highlighted the basic capability of the systems to operate autonomously, to have mission plans uploaded and to execute the flights with little to no input while they were in the air.”

US Navy logistics drone
A TRV-150 Tactical Resupply UAS flies over Webster Field Outlying Field in Maryland Oct. 27 as part of a demonstration. Image: US Navy

Trials

The TRUAS displayed airdrop and land drop capabilities during trials by first flying to a pre-programmed point, dropping a payload, and flying back. The UAS repeated the first step in the second leg, but rather than airdropping and flying back, it landed at a predetermined place and released the cargo. The operator then pressed a button to return the drone after retrieving the package.

In a separate trial, the naval BWUAS demonstrated vertical takeoff, followed by forward flight. It then returned for an airdrop, transitioned back to forward flight, and returned for a vertical landing.

Benefits

Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons Rear Adm. Brian Corey explained the role of drones for naval and marine operations, saying that “unmanned logistics supply aircraft will keep Sailors and Marines out of harm’s way and can provide much-needed logistics support and assistance with humanitarian relief efforts.”

“With unmanned assets, we have a resupply that will be much more effective and give our operators the ability to maneuver around the battlefield in ways they haven’t been able to do before.”

Marines will receive the TRUAS next summer for “extended user assessment” while the NAWCAD is in the process of assigning a developer “to prototype BWUAS technology and demonstrate feasibility of autonomous tactical resupply at sea.”

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