Few military services have invested as much in Research & Development (R&D) concerning unmanned delivery systems as has the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Its warfighters are often called to bring the fighting to the enemy from ship-to-shore and beyond. The result is that these elements can eventually find themselves far from their critical supply lines or cut-off from friendly forces altogether, requiring a rapid response, tactically-minded cargo delivery system for resupply. The New Battlefield, one driven by advanced processors, electronics, and unmanned systems, requires such vehicles as USMC forces advance towards victory.
Enter the "Silent Arrow", a low-cost unmanned glider-type air vehicle developed as a private venture by Yates Electrospace - the concern founded by electric motorcycle and electric aircraft record-setter Chip Yates. The vehicle has been in the works since 2014 and the United States Marine Corps has taken an interest in the unpowered, unmanned capabilities of this compact delivery system. The service has moved to commission for ten of the air vehicles under its Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) branch to conduct additional active testing under more-likely-encountered operational conditions.
The vehicle can be airdropped from the hold of a passing fixed-wing (C-130 or similar) or rotary-wing (CH-53 or similar) aircraft from altitudes as high up as 25,000 feet. Up to 700lb of cargo can be carried in the body of the vehicle whose boxy, slab-sided fuselage acts as its own hard shell shipping crate - further reducing manufacturing and procurement costs (each unit is set to sell for under $10,000 USD). The glider components are delivered within the fuselage itself and installed when the vehicle is readied for launching. This process involves the addition of a forward and aft wing mainplane pair as a pyramidal nosecone. The result is a "streamlined" - yet-wholly utilitarian-looking - twin-winged vehicle capable of gliding down to the earth's surface under complete silence.
The program has been advancing at a healthy pace with ground-based testing ongoing (as of 2018) and certification planned for a near-future date. In late-2018, the aircraft are expected to be dropped out of the hold of a USMC MV-22 tiltrotor aircraft to better simulate likely conditions expected by USMC warfighters in-the-field. The company is also investing in research related to an electrically-powered air vehicle that would act as a host ship to these unpowered cargo delivery systems - creating an entire family of related unmanned systems suitable for military service and fulfilling a critical role in USMC operational doctrine. Beyond its military scope, Silent Arrow could also branch into humanitarian initiatives by its ability to reach far-off, inaccessible areas following natural disasters.
The ER-700 designation covers an electrically-powered, extended range variant of Silent Arrow. This version can take-off and land from rough airfields which further broadens the tactical capabilities of this interesting product.