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Navy tests aerial logistics drone on USS Gerald Ford

Naval Air Force Atlantic tested its aerial logistics drone prototype, Blue Water UAS, last weekend, the branch announced. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
Naval Air Force Atlantic tested its aerial logistics drone prototype, Blue Water UAS, last weekend, the branch announced. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Naval Air Force Atlantic tested a long-range aerial drone last weekend, the Navy announced.

The long-range cargo transport, dubbed Blue Water UAS, is designed to operate with Naval Forces that typically operate in heavy winds over open water and require aircraft to land on vessels that are moving rapidly at sea.

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The proof-of-concept test was conducted last Sunday by transporting lightweight logistical equipment from the mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center at Naval Station Norfolk on board USS Gerald R. Ford while the carrier was in-port.

According to the Navy, the demonstrator vehicle "can operate in some of these conditions and further development will be required to meet the full Naval requirement."

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"This UAS demonstration leverages cutting edge technology to enhance our logistical efficiency across the Naval Air Force," Rear Adm. John F. Meier, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, said in a press release.

"We have come a long way in integrating unmanned systems in Naval Aviation and the lessons learned today will help to accelerate this capability to the fleet," Meier said.

According to the Navy, data from the service's casualty reports shows that warships that move to non-mission capable or partially mission capable status often do so due to logistics issues like the need for electronic parts, which require small deliveries weighing less than 50 pounds.

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Currently, those deliveries are carried out by aircraft like MH-60 helicopters and MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft -- but Blue Water could potentially make similar deliveries more efficiently and at lower cost, officials say.

"Carrier logistics is a complex and diverse problem set," said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Gerald R. Ford's commanding officer.

"Sometimes getting a small part delivered to the ship has a big impact on the availability of an embarked system or aircraft. Having UAS like Blue Water may improve our ability to quickly meet specific logistics needs where payload and ship's location permit,"Lanzilotta said.

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The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division acquired an Unmanned Air System prototype to demonstrate long-range naval ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore cargo transport at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in October.

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