Promoting the development of cargo drones will be the focus of next year’s operational energy capability improvement fund, according to a Defense Department official.
“The [fiscal year 2016] theme for OECIF is unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Steve Mapes, deputy director for expeditionary operations in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for energy plans and programs. “What we’re talking about is unmanned aerial vehicles for resupply.”OECIF provides seed money to programs that could potentially improve the energy usage of deployed forces or deliver long-term cost savings.
By using UAVs to transport cargo “you can take those trucks [that would normally have to be used to transport supplies] off the road or you can navigate or circumvent bodies of water without having to send actual forces or troops or ships” to deliver materiel, Mapes said Aug. 25 at a National Defense Industrial Association power conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.
OECIF investments in 2016 would be “targeted specially toward the Pacific,” which presents unique logistical hurdles because of its vast size, Mapes said.
“Tyranny of distance right now is hands down one of the most challenging things we have to deal with, particularly in the [U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility],” he said. “We rely heavily on host nation agreements. We rely heavily on our joint partners to move equipment and assets from point A to point B. But one of our major defense challenges is just distance.”
As a solution, he envisioned launching supply drones off ships. “We’re talking cargo aircraft that can navigate from a ship-based platform [and] … allow us to navigate that distance without bringing that ship right up to the coast,” he said.
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