As Detroit looks towards producing fully-autonomous tractor trailers for the nation’s highways, and the US Navy puts unmanned surface and submersible vessels to sea around the globe, it was perhaps just a matter of time before drones were taken seriously as a means of moving assets from Point A to Point B. The venerable Stars and Stripes reports that the US Marine Corps is looking to field an unmanned tilt-rotor drone which can carry cargo and carry out other vital missions by 2023. Dubbed the V-247 Vigilant, the new Bell Helicopter proposal is slightly smaller than a manned V-22 Osprey, enabling it to take off and land on somewhat smaller sea-based platforms with limited space.
“Through plug-and-play mission packages, the Vigilant will be able to carry a significant payload and execute electronic-warfare, intelligence, surveillance-and-reconnaissance, escort, command-and-control, communications and fire missions,” says Stars and Stripes.
“The advantage that the Bell V-247 Vigilant provides is that it does not need a runway or other airfield resources,” said Vince Tobin, vice president of Advanced Tiltrotor Systems for Bell Helicopter. “It can, therefore, be co-located with the units on a ship or in the field that will make use of the asset. This reduces the issues associated with link-up at the proper place and time for the unit prosecuting military operations and the fixed-wing [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] that may be taking off from a runway hundreds of miles away.”
There are many instances in which a vertical-takeoff-and-landing platform is more advantageous than a fixed-wing, runway-launched platform, Tobin said.
“In those cases, the Bell V-247 Vigilant provides the speed, range, payload and flexibility to meet mission requirements,” he said.