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British Army tests autonomous glider drone for transporting supplies, soldiers

Animal Dynamics

The idea of a drone delivering our Amazon orders sounds pretty darn rad, but a key innovation that delivery drones offer is being able to transport supplies to places where they might not otherwise be safely or easily delivered. With this goal in mind, the British Army is currently testing out an unorthodox glider-based drone that could one day be used to resupply troops or deliver humanitarian aid.

The drone is called Stork, and it’s the work of a U.K.-based company called Animal Dynamics. Resembling a paraglider without the human pilot, it’s one of several technologies being explored as part of a competition called the “Autonomous Last Mile Resupply” challenge, which is organized by the U.K.’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL). The aim is to find cutting-edge technologies that could support future military operations.

Two versions of Stork exist. A smaller iteration weighs in at 50 kilograms (110 pounds) and is capable of carrying a total of 30 kilos (66 pounds). A larger version tips the scale at 150 kilos in weight (330 pounds) and can carry a maximum of 100 kilos (220 pounds) — potentially meaning that it could be used to transport wounded soldiers from the battlefield. According to New Scientist, even larger versions are planned further down the line.

Stork is designed to take off and land in confined spaces, and is able to fly autonomously to designated coordinates using either GPS or a vision-based flight system. It was recently tested by the British Army on simulated delivery missions that involved parachuting packages in a variety of  weather conditions.

This isn’t the only military-oriented drone technology we’ve covered recently. Also in the U.K., cutting-edge defense company BAE Systems is working on developing a new high-altitude, long-endurance drone called PHASA-35 that is aimed at achieving flight times of anywhere up to 12 months. Florida-based Duke Robotics has developed a drone called TIKAD, which sports a plethora of semiautomatic weapons, alongside a 40mm grenade launcher. The company has already received an initial order from the Israeli Ministry of Defense, and is in conversations with other military departments around the world.

Clearly we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the rollout of army drone technology.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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