When most of us imagine the delivery drones of the future, we think of small, copter-based machines that look like the DJI Mavic. It turns out, however, that large glider drones are also part of the equation, particularly as far as militaries are concerned. We got a glimpse at one of those future drones at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show in London where the Silent Arrow GD-2000 was shown off.
Yates Electrospace Corporation (YEC), the company behind the Silent Arrow, envisions the drone as a potential replacement for the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) delivery method several armed forces, including the US military, use to deliver battlefield supplies. Even if you’re not familiar with the acronym, you’ve probably see JPADS in action in movies and newsreels. The system uses a combination of GPS and steerable parachutes to guide supplies that are dropped from an airplane to their intended destination. Compared to JPADS, YEC claims the main advantage of the Silent Arrow is that it can deliver up 1,631 pounds of supplies, the drone’s maximum load, at less than half the cost. Since it’s a glider, it’s also easier to steer to its target destination. When the situation calls for it, it can also be stealthy in a way that parachutes can’t.
While far removed from the consumer-facing delivery drones Amazon has been testing as a part of its Prime Air project, the Silent Arrow is a step forward for the field. With production slated to start this October, it’ll be among the first delivery drones to take to the skies.