Unmanned systems developer Silent Arrow says two of its GD-2000 cargo delivery drones completed the first overseas deployment with the “air force of a US allied government in the Middle East” under a $1.5 million operational evaluation contract.
In preparation for the flight operation, 1,026 lbs. (465 kg) of an undisclosed cargo load was secured inside the 26 cubic foot fuselage of two GD-2000s, bringing the gross vehicle weight of each aircraft to 1,520 lbs. (689 kg), below Silent Arrow’s certified max gross of 2,000 lbs. (907 kg).
Two C-130s were used in the operation, during which two GD-2000s were rigged in accordance with US military standards for container delivery system (CDS) bundles.
According to the company, the flight occurred over a desert environment where Silent Arrow demonstrated autonomous flight, autonomous waypoint selection and navigation. What is more, during the auto landing sequence, Silent Arrow’s autonomous autopilot was able to command and achieve a zero-sink rate flare, the company added.
A series of 12 Block 1 GD-2000s are currently on station in the Middle East in support of the contract, with 15 Block 2 aircraft in production at Silent Arrow’s Irvine, California facility due to ship in the first half of 2022.
To date, 45 low rate initial production Silent Arrow GD-2000s have been built, and the company adds that full rate production (FRP) into the thousands of units is expected to begin in 2023.
Silent Arrow’s Middle East success follows the signing of a contract with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) for the development of a new cargo unmanned vehicle, a scaled down version of the GD-200, suited for side door and palletized swarm deployment at high speeds and altitudes.
“As we prepare for mass production, it’s encouraging to see foreign allied governments as enthusiastic about the new capabilities Silent Arrow brings to the warfighter as the US military has been,” said Chip Yates, Silent Arrow’s founder and CEO. “We have distribution agreements in place for 37 countries so far and are working hard to become the worldwide standard for airdrop logistics.”
Originally designed to replace GPS-steered parachutes (JPADS) under contract from the US Marine Corps, the Silent Arrow line of autonomous cargo delivery aircraft has so far expanded to three platforms based on military tactical resupply requirements.
The company says it supplied or won contracts directly with all four US military service branches for the GD-2000 (26 cubic feet for up to 1,500 pounds of payload), Widebody (140 cubic feet for greater than 1,500 pounds of payload)
and Precision Guided Bundle (7.6 cubic feet for 350 pounds of payload) models.