In a demonstration for Department of Defense officials earlier this month, the US Army Research Lab flew the prototype of the Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle, a jumbo quadcopter that may someday deliver supplies to soldiers on the battlefield.
The electric-powered drone has been in development since 2014, and now it really works. The Army still has ambitious development goals. Eventually, it'd like the drone to be able to fly low to the ground at 60 miles an hour to be able to deliver supply orders within 30 minutes. The Army said Tuesday that it will also look at hybrid forms of power to see if they can extend the range of the JTARV -- also called a hoverbike -- to 125 miles while carrying an impressive 800 pounds.
The project is a joint effort between the Army and the Marines. The JTARV prototype, about the size of a tabletop, has advanced navigational systems built in that could help it maneuver even in complex battle plans.
Over the last decade, drones have become essential pieces of military equipment. They range in size from those that would fit in backpack to some the size of small airplanes, with missions ranging from recon and surveillance to deadly strikes against human targets.
Pentagon planners have also been keen to get unmanned aircraft more involved in resupply missions to remote locations and as a way to keep soldiers from having to run truck convoys over ground routes threatened by snipers and explosive devices.
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