Source: Near Earth Autonomy

As emergency aerial missions become increasingly important during times of pandemic, drones are proving their worth, delivering vital cargo to remote or unreachable areas.

Pittsburgh-based drone firm Near Earth Autonomy has developed a system that allows military units to safely execute resupply missions with cutting-edge obstacle avoidance tech.

The company recently collaborated with the U.S. military’s in the Joint Capabilities Technology Unmanned Logistics Systems Aerial demonstration in Fort AP Hill, Va. as the first part of a three-year program.

During the simulation, 16 active-duty Army soldiers and Marines used Near Earth’s platform to execute 64 resupply missions.

The military hopes to deploy autonomous aerial support to bolster ground supply convoys and manned aircraft, reducing the risk of attacks against human suppliers attempting to replenish combat operations.

“From a logistics standpoint, the Marines are looking to deliver small to medium weight supplies like water, beans, and ammunition to forward operating bases,” Robert McKinney said. He is the technical manager for the Marine Corp Warfighter Lab’s unmanned aerial logistics program.

“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.”

ULS-A Operational Manager Joe Fagan applauded the simulation’s success:

“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.”

“We can apply this capability and really help out the warfighter. I see a lot of applications in delivering in austere environments,” Master Gunnery Sgt. Ulrich said (no first name was provided in a press release by Near Earth).

“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.”

In 2017, the USMC completed a successful demonstration of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System, a project that converted a decommissioned UH-1H Huey helicopter into a semi-autonomous aircraft piloted remotely by an infantryman using a handheld tablet.

Two years ago, the Marine Corps contracted with drone startup InstantEye to deploy a UAV platform that will provide additional reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition capability to warfighters in the field.



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