Drone operation? There's an app for that.

By Skyler Frink
Soldiers on the battlefield may eventually be able to get supplies delivered directly to them via unmanned rotorcraft by using a smart phone, or similar device, to control a drone with a simple application.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has given contracts to Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Science to develop an unmanned rotorcraft to deliver cargo on the battlefield. The ultimate goal of this project? To allow warfighters to operate unmanned rotorcraft with a smartphone-esque device.

With the Department of Defense's (DOD) interest in automation, as evidenced by UAV swarms , unmanned underwater vehicles (UVVs), and submarine-tracking unmanned surface vessels , this seems like a logical extension of improved autonomous vehicle controls. The program itself is a five-year effort, which will include the development of sensors and control technologies for autonomous rotorcraft.

Smartphone applications have also been a tool that has seen more and more use by the DOD as time goes on, with applications designed to help soldiers make smart choices at home and for rapid response in disaster scenarios. The idea that each soldier will be connected to the web and have a GPS device on them is allowing the DOD to create applications to provide important services to soldiers.

This possible application will help prevent casualties by putting fewer manned convoys into harms way to deliver supplies, along with making important supplies more accessible to soldiers on the front lines.

With a goal of getting a flight demonstration into the air in 18 months, soldiers may soon find themselves in a situation where if supplies are low they don't need to worry; there's an app for that.

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
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