UK drone company Malloy Aeronautics and the Royal Navy have successfully completed trials of a heavy-lift drone involving it landing on a moving target similar to the deck of a ship.
The Royal Navy’s autonomy and lethality R&D division, NavyX and its DARE (discover, analysis and rapid exploitation) team are developing the drone for the purpose of moving supplies onto ships.
The heavy-lift drone has already been successfully tested in the harsh environment of the Arctic Circle in northern Norway during the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Advance Force exercise earlier this year.
The most recent round of trials demonstrated that the Malloy drone could land and launch on moving vessels. Before it is tested at sea, it was tested on land, by landing on a van’s trailer moving at different speeds and with the trailer swerving to reflect the range of conditions at sea.
The trials also used technology from US-drone company Planck.
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 drones for logistics at sea offers the opportunity to reduced costs and 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.
Wakley said, “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.”