CONTENT PREVIEW
Air Platforms

US Marine Corps performs Hive Final Mile UAV concept demonstration

15 March 2018

Key Points

  • The USMC spent time testing if small UAVs can autonomously deliver small goods to the field
  • The marines believe this technology could save lives

The US Marine Corps (USMC) on 14 March demonstrated a capability it calls Hive Final Mile (HFM) where it wants to autonomously deploy a group of small quadcopter-style unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and deliver small supplies such as food or ammunition to marines on the field.

An Xcraft x2i small unmanned aerial vehicle used on 14 March during the US Marine Corps’ Hive Final Mile technology concept demonstration. (IHS Markit/Patrick Host)An Xcraft x2i small unmanned aerial vehicle used on 14 March during the US Marine Corps’ Hive Final Mile technology concept demonstration. (IHS Markit/Patrick Host)

HFM is a logistics initiative by NexLog and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s (OSD’s) Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO) that employs platform-agnostic software architecture linked to a marine’s handheld device, according to briefing slides. Demand signals autonomously queue and dispatch autonomous platforms to satisfy a unique demand. The USMC believes the payoff is significant improvement in service to the marines and the reduction in bottlenecks and operational constraints inherent to current logistical and distribution operations.

The 14 March demonstration was part of a week-long effort at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. Special Project Officer Major Christopher Thobaben told an audience that the marines are using cloud-based, platform-agnostic technology capable of deploying 32 UAVs at a time.

He anticipates the USMC will eventually scale up to thousands of UAVs to execute HFM. Maj Thobaben said the idea is to provide an aerial solution as recently marines died in combat because they used ground vehicles to deliver water in the field.

Maj Thobaben said the UAVs have a range of roughly 500 m and can fly at roughly 10 m per second. He said it currently takes two minutes from command for the aircraft to drop a payload weighing as much as 1-1.3 kg.

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