Air Force Orders 15 Silent Arrow Precision-Guided Cargo Delivery Drones

The 1-ton Silent Arrow GD-2000 deployed from a U.S. C-130, will be scaled down for humanitarian and tactical markets. Courtesy Silent Arrow/YEC.

The U.S. Air Force through its Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded Silent Arrow a contract for “Guided Bundle Derivative of Silent Arrow for Side Door and Palletized Swarm Deployment at High Speeds and Altitudes.” Silent Arrow’s GD-2000 (Glider, Disposable, 2000 pounds) platform will be scaled down and redesigned as a new product line called the Silent Arrow Precision Guided Bundle (SA-PGB), which will initially be developed as an autonomous cargo delivery glider. The SA-PGB is specifically designed for side door and multi-unit (swarm) ramp deployment, compatible with an expanded fleet of delivery aircraft ranging from the civilian Cessna Caravan to the military C-17.

The SA-PGB will be designed and built at Silent Arrow’s headquarters in Irvine, California. It will measure 39 inches long with a maximum weight of 500 pounds with a carrying capacity of 350 pounds. It will feature the company’s existing patented spring-deployed wing design and 40-mile standoff distance. 15 aircraft will be shipped to the company’s flight test center in Pendleton, Oregon for operational evaluations at the Pendleton UAS Test Range. Initial specifications include 500-pound max weight, 350-pound cargo capacity, 39 inches long and deployable from high altitudes and airspeeds.

Topcon: next level precision

Design and engineering work for the AFRL-sponsored SBIR II contract will take place at Silent Arrow corporate headquarters in Irvine, California.

“We’d like to thank the U.S. Special Operations community, the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army and various other organizations who signed on to support this award for a new life-saving cargo delivery drone,” said Chip Yates, Silent Arrow’s founder and CEO. “We look forward to an exciting flight test program in 2022 and quickly getting this new capability into the hands of the warfighter and disaster-relief organizations alike.”

The parent craft, GD-2000, was designed and developed by Yates Electrospace Corporation (YEC). It was rolled out at the Defense & Security Equipment International (DSEI) show held in London in September 2019. Silent Arrow craft are currently being delivered and operated to directly serve heavy-payload, autonomous cargo resupply needs throughout the world. Standard cargo transported by the vehicle includes medicines, ready-to-eat meals (MREs), ammunition, water, fuel, and batteries.

Navigation

The GD-2000 is equipped with a modified commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Pixhawk Cube autopilot system. It also features a GPS, magnetometer, barometer, inertial measurement unit (IMU), and a light detection and ranging (LiDAR) device.

It uses an Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) programming interface and can optionally be integrated with an optional radio frequency and first-person-view (FPV) systems.

Drone Launch and Recovery

The Silent Arrow GD-2000 is air-dropped from a maximum altitude of 25,000ft by fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft such as the C-17, C-130, CH-53, V-22, and UH-1H Huey. It can be carried either internally or as a sling load.

The Silent Arrow ER-Series cargo delivery drone has a ground-based take-off feature. It can be recovered from the improvised airfields and airdrop method.

Performance

The autonomous glider has a stand-off range of 64km and stall speeds of 62kt and 92kt while carrying payloads of 453kg (1,000lb) and 907kg (2,000lb), respectively. The vehicle has a fuel capacity of 473l.