Drone technology is being developed with the aim of making logistics supply chain in war zones more efficient. Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that the wooden aircraft the LG-1K developed by Logistic Gliders Inc under contract with DARPA and the U.S. Marine Corps War-fighting Laboratory is undergoing trials in the California skies.
With the aim to meet the requirements of being inexpensive and expendable the LG-1K drone is made from plywood and aluminium and is designed to be released from fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter. It is made up of plywood and aluminium, is 10.4 feet long and has a 23 foot wingspan. The LG-1K has the capacity of carrying up to 700 lbs. of supplies. LG-1K has already flown twelve missions demonstrating its ability to glide—in some cases autonomously to a landing zone with GPS precision.
The functioning mechanism involves the drone either being pushed out the back of an aircraft or being released from a sling load. Initially its wings are folded back during transport but they pop out once the drone is airborne. The LG-1K can fly at speeds of up to 135 knots. For ease of navigation around rough terrain it can also be programmed to fly to specific waypoints. On approach to the target, it pops a parachute at 200 feet and comes in for a landing.
The gliding feature itself is extremely low-tech however; the drone incorporates electronics and control systems that allow it to fly by remote control or autonomously to a set of pre-programmed GPS coordinates.
The company expects the drone to be compatible with MV-22 and CV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft, KC-130, C-130, and C-17 transports, and MH-60, UH-60, CH-53, and CH-47 helicopters. In fact the MV-22 Osprey could carry up to three of the drones, and as per Aviation Week & Space Technology a C-130 could carry as many as 18, potentially resupplying many units with a single fly over sortie.
The drone could prove to be very helpful in terms of providing support to ground troops in wars such as Afghanistan and against the Islamic State, by delivering supplies to friendly columns patrolling miles from a forward operating base for instance. It would also prove useful to the US forces against near-peer threats such as those from Russian or Chinese advanced air defences. In a scenario where ground forces, particularly those operating on small islands, finding themselves close enough to the enemy to be cut off by air, for example, a resupply aircraft could fly right up to the edge of enemy air defences and release supply drones that could fly the rest of the way on their own without placing human beings at risk. Aviation Week & Space Technology reports that Logistics Gliders anticipates the cost of each drone could be from $4,500 to $11,000 roughly.