A drone was recently used to perform the first ship-to-submarine delivery via small unmanned aircraft. During the historic flight, the long-endurance hybrid-electric Skyfront Perimeter Drone took off from a moving surface vessel and delivered supplies to the crew of the ballistic missile submarine.
According to the US Navy, it was “designed to test and evaluate the tactics, techniques, and procedures of U.S. Strategic Command’s expeditionary logistics.”
The small package was delivered to the deck of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, USS Henry M. Jackson, while crew members observed the flight. At the time, the submarine was underway in the waters around Hawaii.
During the flight, pilots aboard the surface vessel launched the drone and flew it near the submarine. Once there, pilots aboard the submarine took control of the drone and released the package onto the deck.
According to the manufacturer, Skyfront, pilots can control the drone with joysticks or with Skyfront’s satellite map software. Integrating radios for the datalink and long-range tracking antennas allows an unlimited number of pilots and ground control stations to seamlessly view video from and take control of the drone at any time.
The capability to handoff to multiple pilots, Skyfront says, is essential for long-range missions. The capability maintains line-of-sight control by using multiple distributed pilots to comply with some countries’ aviation rules and regulations. It also allows pilots to maintain full control of the vehicle while flying over rugged terrain where radio links are likely to be compromised by line-of-sight obstructions.
The test flight, which was deemed a success, was part of a series of exercises the Navy was undertaking exploring logistics to enhance the overall readiness of its forces.