The Royal Navy’s experts in getting new technology to the frontline quickly are trialling the use of heavy-lift drones for future use on warships.
NavyX and DARE (Discover, Analysis and Rapid Exploitation) have been working with UK drone firm Malloy Aeronautics and Planck Aerosystems in the development of the unmanned air vehicles for the purpose of moving supplies onto ships.
The heavy-lift drone has already been put through its paces in the harsh environment of the Arctic Circle in the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Advance Force exercise. In northern Norway earlier this year, it proved it could be operated safely in all conditions and could successfully deliver stores.
The latest round of trials were to prove the Malloy drone could land and launch on moving vessels, something it will be required to do if introduced into the navy.
But before taking it to sea, it was tested on land, tasking it with landing on a van’s trailer moving at different speeds and with the trailer swerving to reflect the range of conditions at sea.
Peter Whitehead, DARE project lead, said: “These trials with Malloy and Planck are the next evolution to making unmanned systems increasingly autonomous and of benefit to the navy. It increases their utility at sea and their use in future Royal Navy operations.
“Using this drone in this way reduces the level of human involvement and interaction in logistics and shows how the Royal Navy wants to move forward in its use of the latest technologies.
“We cannot wait to prove its uses at sea in the near future.”
The use of unmanned air vehicles in the logistics role offers a range of advantages from reduced costs, missions being completed quicker and the ship’s company not being exposed to certain risks.
Jack Wakley, head of the engineering team from Malloy Aeronautics, said the latest round of trials was an important step in enabling maritime autonomy with Malloy technology.
He added: “While the next steps are well defined, where should the end goal be? For me, I am really looking forward to proving automated recovery on our 370kg T400 aircraft, to a larger vessel of course.
“Being able to autonomously deploy 180kg payloads from a Royal Navy vessel at 20km stand-off would be an exciting capability to deliver.”