I am sure you heard about the use of unmanned drones to make delivery, but do you know that the U.S. military also favors the concept? However, unlike its commercial counterpart, U.S. military is looking at drones that can go long distances and disposed after the cargo has been retrieved. So, yeah, single-use delivery drones are what Logistic Gliders, Inc. are developing and testing for the military under contracts with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL).
It is not called drones or UAV, though that’s what it really is. Instead it is called ‘Glider’ and it is described as “a low-cost, single-use, autonomous, disposal glider-based logistic resupply system. Two models are developed for this purpose; a small model known as LG-1K and a larger vehicle called LG-2K. The latter is said to be able to haul over 700 kilograms (about 1,800 lbs) of cargo. In a recent series of tests with the U.S. Marines, Logistic Gliders announced that the gliders have passed the test. In case you are wondering, the drones are not made of paper as one might expect from the idea of “disposable.” They are made of cheap plywood.
Also differing from commercial delivery drones is, these glider drones are not ground launched; they have to be launched from a regular manned cargo aircraft such as a SkyVan or from a helicopter sling. The glider is designed with folding wings and has skidboard that is works with standard airdrop conveyor rollers and side rails. Once it exits the cargo, the wings unfold and from there, it can either be piloted by a person with radio control and first person video (FPV), or it can fly and navigate autonomous. Upon reaching its destination, the glider can land horizontally on its belly in a crash-landing fashion or vertically by deploying a parachute. The aircraft is designed with a nose made of honeycomb paper to help in cushion the vertical landing.
So far, Logistic Glides has competed 12 prototype glider fight tests, each time using a brand new glider. The tests that are completed thus far covers all of the aforementioned capabilities, logging a total of 54 minutes and 21 seconds of flight time. So how low cost is low cost? Well, it would be “as little as a few hundred dollars each.” If all goes as planned (it meets the military’s requirement), these gliders would be deployed by the military to send supplied to multiple sites or used to transport humanitarian aid.
Logistic Gliders isn’t the first to develop single-use drone. We saw a DARPA funded drone that was designed for delivery of humanitarian aid two years ago. But that one was mostly of cardboard, which would be more biodegradable than the plywood-made Gliders. That said, it will be cool if the Gliders can biodegrade like Biodegradable Drone by NASA’s AMES Research Center and Stanford University. Here, have a look at the flight test of large glider.