When it comes to quieter drones of the future, the U.S. Army may well be calling an Uber to help.
The army’s research laboratory will partner with the ride-sharing giant in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement to “advance technologies supporting Future Vertical Lift (drones),” – with an emphasis on developing silent UAVs.
Announced during a technical summit in Los Angeles last week, the Lift project will be focused on drone safety and stealth.
“The research that we will collaborate with Uber to do will actually deliver unprecedented capability for quieter rotor systems in a unique configuration,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.
“One of those priorities is for Future Vertical Lift,” Riddick said. “The emphasis within Future Vertical Lift is toward future rotorcraft or helicopters, but also a future fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones.”
Military officials state one project goal it to “include the ability to give the Soldier of the future silent operations.” The Army also seeks fixed-wing drones that will not require a runway and can carry larger payloads.
“We have extensive experience in rotorcraft aero-mechanics,” said Dr. Rajneesh Singh, a team leader in the ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate. “By definition this is a very multi-disciplinary field. It requires expertise in different technical areas and we have such a group.”
“ARL is one of the nation’s premier rotorcraft research centers,” said Rob McDonald, head of Uber’s Vehicle Engineer Team. “Together we’ll be working on stacked co-rotating rotor development.”
“I’m really confident because we have willing partners on either side,” Riddick said. “Uber, with their objective for urban transportation, the air-taxi, as they call it and the Army with its objective of silent operations as a capability for the future unmanned aerial vehicle fleet for the Soldier.”
The agreement cements Uber’s position as a player in the drone sector. In 2017, the company named Los Angeles as the second test city for its nascent drone taxi service. Uber also partnered with NASA to help develop UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) technologies at low altitude. The company plans to test flights in LA by 2020.