Military, Unmanned

Defense Department Seeking Disaster-Relief Drone to Support DHS

Boeing Air Cargo drone

A design concept of Boeing’s of its cargo air vehicle drone, which the company says could carry up to 500 pounds. (Boeing)

The Defense Department’s agency charged with providing logistics support to warfighters is seeking information from vendors capable of providing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) that can deliver food and water to people in remote areas following a disaster.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in an information request lists key capabilities and requirements for its UAS needs as part of a forthcoming acquisition for the services in the East and Gulf Coasts of the U.S.

“This is in support of Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Subsistence Contingency Operations and Natural Disaster relief efforts,” the DLA says in a Jan. 10 Request for Information on the government’s FedBizOpps site. In addition to supporting warfighters with their supply needs, DLA also provides support to the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which supports disaster response to U.S. states and territories.

Support for FEMA is “becoming more routine,” a DLA spokesman told Defense Daily on Thursday.

The DLA announcement doesn’t specify a specific event or series of disasters that is driving the need for remote delivery of food and water by UAS but it does follow a series of dramatic storms and wildfires over the past 16 months. One notable example is Hurricane Maria, which hit the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 19, 2017, and Puerto Rico the day after.

Rather than acquire the systems outright, DLA appears to want a contractor that can provide the delivery services through a “turnkey deployment” based on a performance-based concept of operations developed as part of a research effort. Capabilities must be in place within one to two days of an event, the agency says. It also says the drones must be non-developmental and be able to operate beyond visual line of sight in austere conditions.


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