US Army flies ‘hov­er­bike’ pro­to­type


The Army Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory and in­dus­try part­ners demon­strated the fly­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties of a unique rect­an­gu­lar­shaped quad­copter dur­ing a visit from the De­part­ment of De­fense of­fi­cials Jan­uary 10, 2017. Dr Wil­liam Roper, Di­rec­tor of the Strate­gic Ca­pa­bil­i­ties Of­fice at the Of­fice of the Sec­re­tary of De­fense, and mem­bers of his staff vis­ited the Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground lab­o­ra­tory to see the joint tac­ti­cal aerial re­sup­ply ve­hi­cle ( JTARV).

Also known as the ‘hov­er­bike,’ the ve­hi­cle may one day make it pos­si­ble for sol­diers on the bat­tle­field to or­der re­sup­ply and then re­ceive those sup­plies rapidly.

Dur­ing the visit, Roper told lab­o­ra­tory of­fi­cials that he is con­cerned about adapt­ing fu­ture tech­nol­ogy ad­vances. He said he wants to fig­ure out how to get peo­ple to “see some­thing that’s com­ing on the shelf, im­me­di­ately iden­tify the use, de­ter­mine if it’s good enough for rock and roll, get it into the field, but in a way that al­lows us to keep one-up­ping it.”

Re­searchers en­vi­sion a fu­ture JTARV fly­ing low to the ground or at thou­sands of feet at speeds of 96 km per hour or more. “Any­where on the bat­tle­field, sol­diers can po­ten­tially get re­sup­plied in less than 30 min­utes,” said Tim Vong, As­so­ciate Chief of ARL’s Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion. He likened the con­cept to ‘Ama­zon on the bat­tle­field.’ “We want to have op­tions like that,” Vong said. While the cur­rent pro­to­type is elec­tric, re­searchers are look­ing at a hy­brid propul­sion sys­tem that could dra­mat­i­cally in­crease range.

“We’re ex­plor­ing in­creas­ing pay­load ca­pac­ity to 800 pounds and ex­tend­ing the range up to 200 km,” Vong said. “We’re also look­ing to in­te­grate ad­vanced in­tel­li­gent nav­i­ga­tion and mis­sion plan­ning. We’re look­ing to end up with a mo­du­lar, sta­ble plat­form that can be used for even more dy­namic and chal­leng­ing mis­sions.”

The lab­o­ra­tory be­gan ex­plor­ing the JTARV con­cept in the sum­mer of 2014. They iden­ti­fied a man­u­fac­turer, Mal­loy Aero­nau­tics, and a sys­tems in­te­gra­tor, SURVICE, en­tered into a con­tract and moved quickly from con­cept to full-scale pro­to­types.

The JTARV is now a joint ef­fort with the Ma­rine Corps, led by Army re­searchers, at the Army Ar­ma­ment Re­search, De­vel­op­ment and En­gi­neer­ing Cen­ter (ARDEC) at Pi­catinny Arse­nal, New Jer­sey; how­ever, the Army Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory re­searchers still serve as sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts on aero-me­chan­ics, as­sess­ment, anal­y­sis, propul­sion, in­tel­li­gence and con­trols and ma­te­ri­als and struc­tures.

“The project is suc­cess­ful be­cause we went from con­cept de­vel­op­ment to en­gi­neer­ing eval­u­a­tion in col­lab­o­ra­tion with all var­i­ous gov­ern­ment agen­cies and in­dus­try,” ex­plained Ernesto Gar­cia Lopez, ARDEC. “The demo we saw was a unique op­por­tu­nity for us to show a seam­less tran­si­tion be­tween one army or­gan­i­sa­tion and an­other army or­gan­i­sa­tion and hav­ing the in­dus­try along the whole time,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to other in­dus­try, gov­ern­ment and aca­demic part­ners, the JTARV project is team­ing with the Of­fice of Naval Re­search. Re­searchers hope to demon­strate full au­ton­omy in the near fu­ture, Vong said. “I think the visit was a great suc­cess. It gave us an op­por­tu­nity to show­case to Dr Roper ideas and also the progress we’ve been mak­ing in ex­ploit­ing com­mer­cial UAS tech­nolo­gies,” Vong said.

The ARL is part of the ARDEC, which has the mis­sion to pro­vide in­no­va­tive re­search, de­vel­op­ment and en­gi­neer­ing to pro­duce ca­pa­bil­i­ties that pro­vide de­ci­sive over­match to the army against the com­plex­i­ties of the cur­rent and fu­ture op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ments in sup­port of the joint war-fighter and the na­tion. RDECOM is a ma­jor sub­or­di­nate com­mand of the US Army Ma­teriel Com­mand.

Army re­searchers and in­dus­try part­ners fly a pro­to­type rec­tan­gu­lar-shaped quad­copter dur­ing a visit from US DOD of­fi­cials to Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, Mary­land

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