Unmanned aerial vehicles are undoubtedly improving warfighting capabilities. As one of the pioneers of aircraft systems for military applications, Bell has recently proved that its autonomous cargo drone is capable of airdropping supplies. This new capability will eventually lead to quicker resupply missions for troops in challenging environments or out on the battlefields.
Bell’s Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) is not your typical quadcopter. The aircraft takes off vertically and transitions to wing-borne flight, providing multi-copter payload capability with fixed-wing speed.
This, together with its unique tailsitter design, allows the APT to reach an incredible speed and range. The drone can fly with a top speed of 62 mph (100 kph) for up to 35 miles (56 km) on a single charge.
What makes the APT stand out is its ability to take off with two standard tactical packs that hold items such as ammo cans, water, medical supplies, or fuel. Each pack is capable of carrying up to 60 lbs (27 kg) with a maximum payload of 100 lbs (45 kg).
During a recent demonstration, the cargo drone proved that the bags could be aerial dropped at one location or at two separate sites. With this new aerial supply-drop capability, future warfighters will benefit from faster and more efficient resupply. In addition, the troops will receive supplies without having to wait for planes or helicopters to land and take off.
The APT will cut down the time by simply dropping the packages near the location. This feature will also save battery life by reducing hover time and improving the aircraft’s survivability.
“This speed bag resupply feature is a game changer for the warfighter,” said Mike Goodwin, sales and strategy manager. “With the ability to drop supplies quickly and efficiently in a drop zone or a remote location, we can get critical supplies delivered as soon as they’re needed.”
The APT has completed approximately 420 flights tests so far at Yuma, Camp Lejeune, Fort Benning, and other test sites. By early 2022, the aircraft is expected to achieve other significant milestones. The next challenge for APT is to demonstrate precision aerial supply while flying at an 80 mph (129 kph) cruise speed.