Navy tests using drones for medical supply deliveries during RIMPAC

As the Navy looks to further integrate drones into the manned fleet, the sea service assessed using unmanned aerial systems to deliver critical supplies to the destroyer Curtis Wilbur last month during the massive Rim of the Pacific military exercise.

While these supplies are traditionally delivered to Navy vessels via manned aircraft, such assets are expensive and facing manning shortages — causing delays that drones could remedy, according to Navy officials.

The Curtis Wilbur conducted flight tests using the Skyways V2.6 Unmanned Aerial System and PteroDynamics X-P4 Unmanned Aerial System, launching and recovering six drones between from June 19 to June 24 as part of the Just In Time Delivery logistics effort with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division.

“The Navy continues to drive rapid experimentation and implementation of new technologies,” Cmdr. Yilei Liu, commanding officer of the Curtis Wilbur, said in a statement. “While easy to configure and ready to deploy, it is vital to evaluate these technologies in different environmental conditions to define and scope the operating envelopes of these highly capable platforms.”

In 2021, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division awarded PteroDynamics a contract to deliver three vertical take-off and landing drone prototypes to the Navy to assist delivering repair cargo.

“Embedding autonomous platforms into our already-existing systems will define the nature of combat operations in the future,” Liu said. “Once tested, autonomous systems can provide independent defensive and offensive capabilities in a contested environment. These systems can perform potentially dangerous, high-risk evolutions with maximum efficiency and minimal risk to personnel.”

Exercise Rim of the Pacific, known as RIMPAC, is a biennial exercise held near the Hawaiian Islands and involves nearly 30 nations and more than 25,000 personnel.

The exercise concludes on Aug. 1.

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