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Leidos Team to Demo Cargo Drone Prototype for US Navy, Marines

Leidos has teamed with California-based drone developer Elroy Air to demonstrate an autonomous cargo aircraft prototype for the US Navy and Marine Corps.

The project is part of a 2023 framework agreement to manufacture and test an unmanned aerial vehicle that can distribute tactical equipment to forward-deployed ground forces.

Under the initiative, the consortium will deploy a Medium Aerial Resupply Vehicle – Expeditionary Logistics (MARV-EL) system ordered to have “middle-weight” specifications.

Leidos said last year that the resulting vehicle would be able to accommodate up to 272 kilograms (600 pounds) and cover 100 nautical miles (115 miles/185 kilometers).

The MARV-EL platform is expected to sustain functionality when other manned terrestrial and airborne resupply assets are down due to weather, threat, or terrain challenges.

“Approval to proceed to test is a major milestone and is the result of months of hard work by the team,” Leidos SVP and Airborne Systems Manager Tim Freeman remarked.

“We look forward to demonstrating how the Leidos and Elroy Air MARV-EL solution will help deliver a logistics advantage to the Marines and other branches of the military.”

Testing Elroy’s Chaparral

In line with the MARV-EL project, Elroy will also showcase its proprietary Chaparral drone, a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle designed with a “lift-plus-cruise” airframe for efficient flight and long-range autonomous deployments.

The Chaparral leverages advanced carbon composite chassis and modular automated payload capabilities that reduce human intervention compared to traditional cargo drones.

Elroy completed the maiden flight of the Chaparral in Byron in November 2023.

Chaparral hybrid electric vertical takeoff and landing (hVTOL) cargo drone. Photo: Elroy Air

For this year’s MARV-EL test schedule, the Leidos consortium is set to launch the system at the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

“We’ve been designing Chaparral from the beginning to move cargo and resupply troops in the battlespace without putting crews in harm’s way,” Elroy Air CE Dave Merrill said.

“We look forward to demonstrating these capabilities and working toward serving the US Marine Corps’ goals for expeditionary logistics.”

Latest Autonomy Projects

Leidos and the US Army conducted a drone-related evaluation for a separate project at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, last January.

The demonstration included firing an autonomous counter-unmanned aerial system weapon against multiple threats.

The same month of the MARV-EL announcement, Leidos received a contract from the US Navy to maintain and operate the agency’s Overlord drone ships and other medium unmanned surface vessels.

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