AFWERX Awards Contract to Develop Long-Range Cargo Drone

Silent Arrow will scale up its cargo drone technology for a variant capable of carrying 1,000 pounds of payload a distance of more than 300 nm.

The Silent Arrow GD-2000 will be scaled up and fitted with an innovative propulsion system to extend the flight range by a factor of 10x. [Courtesy: Silent Arrow]

Autonomous cargo delivery aircraft firm Silent Arrow has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Air Force's innovation arm, AFWERX, for the development of long-range cargo delivery drones in contested environments.

As part of the $75,000 Phase 1 contract, a feasibility study will be conducted, a spokesperson for the Air Force Research Laboratory told FLYING.

Under the small business innovation research (SBIR) contract, Silent Arrow's GD-2000 cargo drone will be scaled up to carry 1,000 pounds of payload a distance of more than 300 nm. The long-range variant will be known as CLS-300, or "contested logistics system, 300 nautical miles."

The cargo drones are designed for use by warfighters in conflict zones, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief organizations.

Conceptual image of the AFWERX-funded Silent Arrow CLS-300 (contested logistics system, 300 nautical miles). [Courtesy: Silent Arrow]

The GD-2000 variant is an autonomous, disposable glider, capable of carrying 1,500 pounds of cargo a distance of more than 35 nm when deployed from aircraft such as a Lockheed Martin C-130, Boeing C-17, or Airbus A400M.

In 2021, the delivery system innovation was a development selected to compete for the National Aeronautic Association's coveted Collier Trophy.

The CLS-300 version, by comparison, will travel nearly 10 times farther due to what the company calls an "innovative propulsion unit and propeller system that are inexpensive enough to allow the entire cargo drone to be attritable."

The cargo drone will also be capable of taking off on its own from Navy vessels and unimproved runways.

Propulsion tests will take place in the first half of 2024, with flight tests by the end of the year, the company said.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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