The Joint Tactical Aerial Resupply Vehicle (JTARV), also called hoverbike, is a prototype that has a weight capacity of 300 lbs. The JTARV can hover slightly above ground or several thousand feet in the air, depending on terrain and delivery needed. The current speed of 60 MPH is slated to be tweaked to be even faster (1).
From Concept, Research to Prototype
The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) undertook the JTARV project in 2014. They contracted Malloy Aeronautics Ltd (UK) to work on the development of the craft along with systems integrator, SURVICE Engineering (US). Both groups collaborated with other US military branches, agencies and industries. As a result, the project evolved fairly quickly (2).
That collaboration led by the Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey was joined by the US Marine Corps with the ARL serving as in-house experts. According to the ARL website, they are responsible for basically everything. This includes the fields of “aeromechanics, assessment, analysis, propulsion, intelligence and controls and materials and structures”. (3)
Details about the JTARV (Hoverbike)
The quadcopter (hoverbike) is configured in a rectangular shape. It has a drone-like appearance, only on a much larger scale. It also has the significant weight capacity of 300 lbs. The JTARV will eventually have the capacity to carry this weight by either flying low to the ground or several thousand feet in the air.
The projection is for the hoverbike to travel at 60 MPH or faster. The military plans to use the hoverbike for quick battlefield troop resupply. The goal is for the hoverbike to reach troops with needed supplies within 30 minutes or less. ARL Protection Division associate chief, Tim Vong compared the use of the JTARV to being an “Amazon on the battlefield.” (4)
According to Ernesto Garcia Lopez, ARDEC, the project’s success is due to the collaboration of the various government agencies as well as the private sector. Working together on the project, the teams were able to achieve the end result faster than expected.
This project utilized several teams working from concept to the evaluation of feasibility by the engineering team. Working with these teams, along with various government agencies and industries, the idea evolved into a reality – the JTARV prototype.
Garcia explained, “The demo we saw was a unique opportunity for us to show a seamless transition between one Army organization and another Army organization and having the industry along the whole time.” Included in the various military branches is the Office of Naval Research team.
The group adapted commercial UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) technologies and demonstrate how such commercial products and breakthroughs can be utilized for this type of project.
Plans for Future Prototypes
The researchers are confident that an autonomous prototype will be developed very soon and ready for demonstration. Some of the other goals for future prototypes include increasing the weight limit to 800 lbs. Another objective is to “dramatically increase” the JTARV range to 125 miles. To do this would require a different type of power system.
The current prototype for the hoverbike operates on an electric power system. However, researchers are now focused on developing a “hybrid propulsion system” that could accommodate this increase in distance.
The goals don’t stop there. Vong explained the team wants to include “advanced intelligent navigation and mission planning.”
If they are able to accomplish all of these goals, then the final prototype will have a more stable platform. In addition, the new and improve JTARV could possibly be more versatile for different types of missions and use.
Keeping an Eye on Upcoming Technologies
Part of the challenges that scientists face, according to Dr. William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office (Office of the Secretary of Defense) is recognizing new advances in technologies as soon as they are available and how they can be used for military applications. The JTARV is an example of such a technological application of the UAS.
References & Image Credits: