It is not a hoverbike. It bears no resemblance to a bicycle or motorcycle. Yet, the inventor, the popular press and even the Defense Department insist on calling it a hoverbike.

On January 10, the Army Research Laboratory demonstrated a prototype “rectangular-shaped quadcopter” for DoD officials at the Aberdeen Proving Ground laboratory. The joint tactical aerial resupply vehicle, or JTARV, is intended to reduce the need to send troops on supply missions. The concept has been likened to “Amazon on the battlefield.”

A supply UAV that Saves Life

Malloy Aeronautics is the developer of this unique system. It is an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying up to about 300 pounds for a range of under 125 miles. The DoD is acutely aware that more than half of all military losses occur on resupply missions and any method that reduces the exposure of troops to IEDs and ambushes is under consideration.

A supply UAV would have limitations similar to those experienced by helicopters. Thick woods or jungle such as in Vietnam or the Ardennes would be a problem. High altitude, as in Afghanistan, reduces the load capacity. Weather could also be an issue.

Amazon has demonstrated package delivery in the United Kingdom using a UAV. It is a technology on the brink of being a proven concept.

Putting a JTARV into the field means overcoming some innate problems with the concept. Currently, the hoverbike is powered electrically.  Batteries are heavy and research is ongoing to find a better power source.

The range of the device is limited, less than 125 miles. It is slow, flying at 60 mph. The load, presently about 300 pounds, also needs to be  increased.

The concept has been explored many times in the past by the military. It has never taken off, due to the many issues that need to be overcome. “For now, the hoverbike will be a useful, odd-shaped drone, instead of a fancy steed.”

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Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.