The JPADS GPS-guided cargo parachute system has been in service with the US armed forces for some years. It's proven very useful in remote terrain in places like Afghanistan, where resupply over long distances is expensive and dangerous.
Now it looks like something better - at least for smaller loads - is on the horizon.
Yates Electrospace unveiled at the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show in London a larger variant of its unmanned cargo glider, the Silent Arrow GD-2000, that can fly with a gross weight of 907kg (2,000lb).
The US-based company says it will start full-rate production in October and has contractual commitments for 3,020 aircraft.
The Silent Arrow is essentially a 2.43m (8ft)-long rectangular box with two-sets of attachable wings, a nose cone and tail assembly. The wings, nose cone and tail can be packed inside the aircraft’s fuselage for shipping. The UAV has a cargo volume of .75cb m (26cb ft).
The glide drone can be dropped from a Boeing C-17, Lockheed Martin C-130, Sikorsky CH-53, Bell Boeing V-22, as well as various side-door aircraft or from below a helicopter using a sling, says Yates Electrospace. It is designed to be used to resupply troops in hostile or austere locations with weapons, ammunition, equipment or food.
The UAV has been drop tested at 1,500ft above ground level up to 25,000ft mean sea level, the company says. It has a glide ratio of 8.4 to 1, which translates to a standoff range of 64.4km (40mi), says the aircraft designer.
There's more at the link.
Here's a manufacturer's video of a test flight of the new cargo glider.
According to another source, the GD-2000 can carry up to about 1,600 pounds of supplies, delivering them at less than half the cost of JPADS. The present aircraft is single-use, but more versions are under development, including multi-use/reusable gliders, and an electrically powered version for extended range. Models are also planned for humanitarian use (e.g. delivering aid supplies in an emergency) and commercial resupply missions. The military will use the GD-2000 for smaller loads, but will still need the JPADS system for larger cargoes (it can deliver up to 60,000 pounds at present, and also cope with high-bulk loads like vehicle tires, far heavier and bigger than these gliders can handle).
That looks pretty handy! I wish we'd had something like it (or JPADS) available when swanning around the bush in African war zones a few decades ago. It would have made resupply a heck of a lot easier.