Washington: The US is developing a smart- phone piloted and cheap military drone capable of assisting troops in front lines of battle while avoiding hostile threats on the ground like improvised explosive devices and ambushes.
The pilots would be able to control the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) drones remotely using a smartphone or tablet, programme manager of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Ashish Bagai said.
The specially-designed drones could also be deployed in future to transport injured soldiers in dangerous or difficult-to-reach combat zones, Bagai, the Indian-origin aerospace engineer, said.
The drones could transport cargo to and from the front lines of battle, deliver or pick up troops from out-of-the-way areas, or extract casualties, as well as conduct intelligence- gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The programme aims to provide troops with more practical and accessible alternatives to helicopters, which remain in limited supply in the military, Bagai said in a statement.
"Our goal is to provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation that avoids ground-based threats, in turn supporting expedited, cost-effective operations and improving the likelihood of mission success," Bagai was quoted as saying by Livescience.Com.
Rugged terrain and the threat of attack from enemy combatants make it difficult for trucks and other ground-based vehicles to reach the front lines of battle, according to DARPA officials.
Yet, combat outposts typically require an average of 45,300 kilogrammes of supplies each week, they added.
Furthermore, some troops are stationed at high elevations or in areas with restricted road access.
The ARES drones will be designed to take off and land vertically. The unmanned system will be able to haul up to 1,360 kg of supplies.
Two tilting fans that flank the main flight module will enable the vehicle to hover and land efficiently, even in tight spaces such as on the decks of ships.
In fact, the cargo drones will be able to land in spaces half the size typically needed by similarly sized helicopters, according to DARPA.
The drones will have their own power systems, fuel and digital flight controls, but pilots will also be able to control the vehicles remotely using a smartphone or tablet, they added.
DARPA began experimenting with these types of vehicles in 2009, the report said.