U.S. Marines are testing single-use delivery drones for dropping off supplies

Companies like Amazon are still trying to get their delivery drone projects off the ground. However, the U.S. Marines are leading the way with their own delivery drone program — and, unlike the built-to-last drones being developed by many companies, these ones aren’t designed to hang around for long.

That’s because they are intended to be one-use disposable flying machines; designed to fly a particular mission to drop off their cargo, and then be abandoned where they land. That might sound wasteful, but it could actually prove considerably cheaper than using the kind of high-end drones that would regularly be used to carry out delivery missions.

The drones — referred to as TACAD, or TACtical Air Delivery drones — are constructed from cheap, disposable materials. Each one consists of little more than a wooden box, some cheap electronic components, and glider wings. Launched from larger aircraft, they then fly to their target either autonomously or via remote control. The drones are developed by the Dixon, California-based company Logistic Gliders and are capable of carrying up to 1,800 pounds of cargo.

marine delivery drones test gliderairlaunchedfrom skyvan

The LG-2K drones were recently put through their paces on 12 flights, including six dropped from a helicopter and six more from a cargo plane. Five of the gliders carried out autonomous flights, and all five managed to land successfully. The testing will continue in 2019 as part of a contract from the U.S. Marines. After this, it is possible that they could be used for real: Delivering cargo in a variety of terrains, including urban environments, mountainous terrain, or through forest or jungle canopies.

The reason for using disposable drones, which will have to be replaced between missions, is due to the dangerous nature of some of the flights the drones may have to perform. This could make retrieving drones for flying again difficult or impractical. By abandoning the drones after they have dropped their payload, troops won’t have to worry about this. It also means that it is less expensive to lose a particular drone if it does not make it to its intended target for whatever reason.

A paper describing the project is available to read online.

Emerging Tech

Delivery robots are poised to invade our cities, but are we ready for them?

Across the United States, small startups and big businesses alike are clamoring to swarm city streets with fleets of autonomous delivery robots. The only problem? Our urban areas aren't always well-equipped to accommodate them
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s main Falcon Heavy booster is lost at sea after falling off drone ship

SpaceX has lost the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket after a successful mission last week that ended with it landing on a drone ship. SpaceX said rough seas resulted in the rocket toppling over and falling into the ocean.
Emerging Tech

Watch the fearsome DroneHunter X3 pluck rogue UAVs out of the sky

How do you stop enemy drones in their tracks? DroneHunter X3 is a new autonomous anti-drone technology which outruns and then captures rogue drones in midair. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

Pepsi, StartRocket team up to launch satellites for energy drink ad in night sky

Pepsi is working with StartRocket to launch an energy drink advertisement into the night sky using miniature satellites. The Russian startup is looking to send its system into orbit in 2021.
Emerging Tech

Public vote opens for new planet name, but Planet McPlanetface won’t fly

The largest unnamed world in our solar system needs an official title, and you can help choose it. The scientists who discovered the icy planetoid recently announced details of a public vote offering three choices.
Emerging Tech

How MIT hacked horticulture to cultivate a hyper-flavorful basil plant

At MIT, Caleb Harper used his personal food computers to alter the climate in which he grew basil. Exposing it light for 24 hours a day changed the flavor profile of the plant, making it spicier and stronger.
Emerging Tech

Sweden is building a road that recharges electric buses that drive over it

The Swedish transport administration is exploring special roads which will charge vehicles’ batteries as they drive over them. It will test the idea with a short sample stretch of road.
Emerging Tech

Scientists manage to 3D print an actual heart using human cells

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have achieved a world-first by 3D printing a small-scale heart, complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Here's why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Drown out noisy neighbors and rest easy with these white noise machines

Some people are more sensitive to sound during sleep than others. Luckily, there are a number of white noise machines on the market to mask the noise. Here are our five of our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

New gunfire-detection system alerts police of shooters in seconds, not minutes

The Safe Zone Gunfire Detector is a fast gunfire-detection system that could help avert potential tragedies in public places like schools, malls, or anywhere a mass shooting might occur.
Emerging Tech

NASA chooses a special spot for its next crewed moon landing

Following the U.S. government's announcement last month of a desire to see American astronauts set foot on the moon again in the next five years, NASA has revealed a location on the lunar surface where it would most like to land.