Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR FEB 2017 Contents INNOVATIONS
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 28 | FEB 2017
A unique unmanned quadcopter that is being eyed for its
potential as an aerial light resupply vehicle was demonstrated
to the US Department of Defense on 10 January.
The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and industry
partners hosted a visit by Dr. William Roper, director of the
Strategic Capabilities Office at the Office of the Secretary of
Defense and members of his staff at the Aberdeen Proving
Ground laboratory in Maryland to see the Joint Tactical Aerial
Resupply Vehicle (JTARV). The demonstration included the
craft flying and conducting basic low-level manoeuvring.
ARL began exploring the concept of an unmanned
‘hoverbike’ in mid-2014, and subsequently identified a
manufacturer, UK-based Malloy Aeronautics, and a systems
integrator, Survice. The contract that followed quickly
resulted in moving from concept to sub-scale and full-scale
Australian Chris Malloy, founder of Malloy Aeronautics,
designed the original Hoverbike prototype in his Sydney
garage. The then twin propeller ‘bicopter’ design of the first
prototypes gave way to the quadcopter design that featured
four propellers powered by a 1,170cc four-stroke BMW
motorcycle engine. Encased in a protective polycarbonate
frame, the offset rotor design affords the craft added power
When DTR reported on the Hoverbike concept in mid-
2015 the US Army was looking at its potential as a new
class of tactical reconnaissance vehicle (TRV). The TRV role
envisaged for Hoverbike by ARL sees the craft operated in
manned or unmanned mode and flying close to the ground
when necessary to access areas or terrain which do not
complement movement by traditional helicopters. This could
involve a Hoverbike TRV hugging even densely vegetated or
forested terrain as stealthy avenues of approach to a target.
Other roles include humanitarian and disaster relief
Resupply ‘hoverbike’ demo to US DoD
operations whereby a Hoverbike, in manned configuration,
enables emergency personnel and first responders to access
disaster areas and then send the platform, in unmanned
autonomous mode, back-and-forth to bring forward supplies
such as food and water.
JTARV is now a joint effort between the US Army and
Marine Corps, led by Army researchers, at the Army
Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center
at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. ARL researchers still serve
as subject matter experts on aeromechanics, assessment,
analysis, propulsion, intelligence and controls and materials
and structures. The US Navy’s Office of Naval Research is
also being brought into the fold.
The JTARV concept envisages deployed tactical units
being able to request resupply and an autonomous JTARV
arriving on the scene in less than 30 minutes. “Amazon on the
battlefield,” as Tim Vong, associate chief of ARL’s Protection
Division describes it.
The JTARV flight profile could be either terrain hugging or at
altitudes up to 9,000ft and at speeds up to 96km/h.
While the current prototype is electric, researchers are
looking at a hybrid propulsion system that could dramatically
increase range. Current payload is around 136kg.
“ We’re exploring increasing payload capacity to 800
pounds [362kg] and extending the range up to 125 miles
[201km],” Mr Vong said. “ We’re also looking to integrate
advanced intelligent navigation and mission planning. We’re
looking to end up with a modular, stable platform that can be
used for even more dynamic and challenging missions.”
– Mario Attopardi
See also ‘Hoverbike concept gains altitude’ in the July 2015 issue of DTR.
LEFT: A JTARV prototype is
demonstrated to officials
from the US Strategic
Capabilities Office at the
Office of the Secretary of
Defense. Image: US Army
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