Bell has demonstrated how its electric-powered, Autonomous Pod Transport (APT) quadcopter drone can carry out supply drops for soldiers in rough country or on the battlefield, without the need for parachutes or similar devices.
Any effective military is one where the combat forces are the sharp end of a very long logistical spear. The problem is, getting from the end of the supply line to the soldiers in the field across the last mile is often extremely difficult.
One example of this is air dropping supplies to squads and forward bases, and the history of modern warfare includes frustrating episodes where troops have food, medicine, and ammunition dropping from planes on parachutes only to watch in frustration as the precious parcels drift out of reach and even into hostile hands.
Designed to carry a payload of up to 100 lbs (45 kg), the APT can fly for up to 35 miles (56 km) at a maximum speed of 100 mph (160 km/h). The drone is designed to carry out a number of different tasks, like delivering medical supplies, but Bell also sees it as being suitable for battlefield airdrops quickly, precisely, and efficiently.
Key to this is not only the ability of the APT to carry two standard tactical packs, which can each be loaded with ammo cans, water, medical supplies, or fuel, it can also fly at speed to its destination and drop the supplies without landing or hovering for any length of time. The result is not only conserving battery power, but also increasing the drone’s survivability by not presenting a target sitting in the air.
Bell says the APT has already flown 420 times at US Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, in Georgia, and other sites. The next step in the program will be to demonstrate how the aircraft can drop supplies on demand at its cruising speed of 80 mph (129 km/h).
“This speed bag resupply feature is a game changer for the warfighter,” says 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 video below shows the APT in action.