back to article US Marine robot supply skyhook compo: Enter the A160T

Mighty aerospace mammoth Boeing has made a late entry in the contest to supply the US Marines with robot helicopter supply skyhooks, able to move stuff in and out of isolated forward bases in Afghanistan without input from human operators. The A160T robocopter during autonomous supply trials. Credit: Boeing Don't worry lads, …


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  1. wheel

    Presumably out of ground effect...

    I would hope the robochopper would be out of ground effect at 12,000 feet. Ground effect only comes into play when altitude is well within an order of magnitude of wing length / rotor diameter. If the chopper isn't out of ground effect at 12,000 feet, it must have bloody big rotors.

    1. Sweep

      out of ground effect

      ..........or up a mountain

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That's true if the ground is less than 12000 ft above sea level.

  3. Charles E

    Acronym FAIL

    Ah, the Marines have squandered an opportunity for a wonderful acronym. Instead of

    ICUAS: Immediate Cargo Unmanned Aerial System

    They could have called it something like

    ICARUS: Immediate Cargo Aerial Resupply Unmanned System

    Seems more fitting for a helicopter system that struggles to fly in thin air at the highest mountain altitudes in Afghanistan.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns


    ...Let the terminator age begin...

  5. Dave Bell

    Still useful, but...

    I can see either or both these flying. Get half a tonne of supplies without all the support a manned mission needs (which takes time to organise) and that's worth having.

    Of course, it sort of assumes the procurement prcess is working on a wartime footing.

  6. Desk Jockey
    Black Helicopters

    Expensive solution to an already solved probelm?

    Surely this bit of kit does not actually do something that could be solved by other means? For example a Chinook or Hercules could load up with several payloads, just fly high over the area and then dump the selected payload out of the back with precision guided parachutes. The marines could select exactly where they want it to land and no chopper (with or without humans) would have to risk being shot down.

    Considering that manned aircraft are considerably larger, you can have constant patrols with a wide selection on board, pick what you want and the load masters will select then drop it to you. Robot helicopters sound like fun, but do not really add any significant capability. Now if they made a huge one that could loiter for a significant number of hours with a menu of payloads to be dropped at a moment's notice, that would be useful...

    1. Rob

      Well done

      You have extensively nailed the fact that drop capability is well and truely covered but what these offer is pickup as well, hence a v.large reason as to why they have instigated the project in the first place.

  7. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    flying blades of death

    eh, an unmanned heli with no human input. So what happens when it goes bonkers while flying back into base to refuel? Are we going to keep missiles aimed at it, ready to shoot it down before it crashes into the chow-hall? I mean, remote control vehicles are one thing, self-controlled vehicles are another.

  8. Mike Powers

    Typical DoD thinking about requirements...

    "It may be that neither will be judged successful".

    Yeah, that's typical DoD thinking. "We asked for the moon and the stars, and they only gave us the moon, so kill the program and blame everything on greedy contractors."

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    How tough did the DoD think was?

    Within scope of similar sized crewed vehicles (IE doable now but this would be a safer option and *might* give a bit more payload)?

    DARPA tough. IE Order of magnitude improvement needed.

    12000 ft is quite high so any one doing this should be thinking about a much bigger set of rotor blades. IIRC the environment is also pretty warm, knocking down engine performance further.

    As a performance spec 5000Lb across 75 miles does not *seem* excessive, but the hit from altitude and temperature may be bigger than it looks. Designing that into an airframe from scratch on a short time frame is looking pretty tough. The Boeing effort does not look like it's in the running.

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