DSEI 2019: Unusual Cargo Delivery Drone Gets Contracts

Sep 12, 2019 - 8:38 AM

An unpowered tandem-wing guided delivery vehicle that can be dropped from the ramp of airlifters such as the C-17 and C-130, or from helicopters, has been developed by Yates Electrospace Corporation (YEC) of the U.S. The Silent Arrow GD-2000 first flew in 2017 and is being tested by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and foreign militaries. The vehicle has been tested at various military ranges, and at the Pendleton UAS Test Range in Oregon. It has been dropped from helicopters and fixed-wing platforms, including the C-130, and from altitudes ranging between 1,500 ft and 25,000 ft.

YEC says that the recoverable or disposable glider provides military resupply and civilian disaster relief capability at less than half the cost of the usual means—which is the Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) of GPS-guided, steerable parachutes—but with more than 2.5 times the standoff capability.

The wings of the unusual design have four seven-foot-long tandem surfaces that are stowed for transport in a 2 x 2 x 8-foot box. They spring open when deployed, to provide an 8.4:1 glide ratio, and have full-span elevons for control. The wings are constructed from steel, aluminum, and foam, with a vinyl coating. The 13-foot long fuselage is made from plywood and foam. The gross weight is only 2,000 lbs, of which 1,600  lbs can be cargo.    

Chip Yates, the chief executive officer of YEC, said that the GD-2000 was the flagship of the company’s rapidly-expanding line of scaled-down, scaled-up gliders and electrically-powered cargo delivery aircraft. He told AIN that a foreign country was the launch company. The unit cost could be as low as $15,000 for a substantial production run, he added.

YEC says that other advantages of the Silent Arrow over JPADS include its ability to flare to a full-stall landing, resulting in a lower impact. The maximum range after a drop from 25,000 ft is 35 nm in a 12-minute flight. The vehicle is equipped with an autopilot that improves landing accuracy.

British company The MEL Group has become a key partner to YEC and will begin production next month. The UK partner hosted the system's appearance at the DSEI defense exhibition, held in London from September 10-13. YEC has established distribution agreements in 33 other territories.