News | Oct 11, 2019

Army engineers invent actuating enclosure for deploying drones from moving vehicles

The future of drone deployment is here

Conceptual illustration

Troy Carter/TechLink

A group of U.S. Army engineers have invented a mechanical box that can house a quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) on top of a normal ground vehicle for instant deployment.

The new invention, which can streamline military and commercial drone operations, was first made public through a patent application published on Thursday.

It protects the drone while stowed, but built-in actuators allow for easy deployment from within the vehicle, making it ideal for anything from military surveillance to filming moving shots on a movie set. The box also features airflow management through vents that divert rotor wash away from UAV, which helps stabilize it during take-off and landing.

The state-of-the-art drone housing system was invented by Neil Cooper, Eric Paternoster, Jason Schrader and Gary Bronstetter of the U.S. Army CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center.

“(The invention) overcomes the problems associated with prior (systems) by providing a rugged enclosure for deploying and stowing an unmanned aerial system (UAS),” the Army said in its patent application. “The invention provides an automated enclosure with a small footprint that is well-suited for mounting on ground vehicles, such as those used in the military.”

In related research a 3D Robotics’ Solo drone was used to explore the possibilities of launch and recovery of a quadcopter from a ground vehicle. The drawings attached to the patent application show the small, commercially available camera drone stowed and launching from the box. (The patent application and research paper are available below.)

Patent illustration of the Army’s vehicle-mounted drone enclosure

“(The system) facilitates the ready and secure transport of UAS on vehicles, particularly military ground vehicles, for on-demand aerial surveillance and improvement of vehicle safety, for example, from non-line-of-sight attacks,” the application states. “Additionally, it is robust, protects the UAS in military environments, and has a small footprint facilitating easy mounting.”

Through technology transfer, private businesses can leverage the Army’s research and development work to integrate this and other military inventions into their own products and services.

A patent license agreement with the Army would allow the drone housing developed by the CCDC Ground Vehicle Systems Center team to be transferred and transitioned into use by companies selling products and services to the military or commercial markets. A cooperative research and development agreement may also be appropriate to further the technical readiness level.

Dr. Brian Metzger, senior technology manager at TechLink, is an expert in invention licensing and is assisting the Army lab in Michigan with its technology transfer efforts.

Metzger plans on visiting the lab in mid-October to discuss its growing patent portfolio and other technologies that have commercial potential.

“I believe the UAV housing system, along with many other technologies coming out of the ground vehicles lab, have a great deal of potential in both military and commercial applications,” Metzger said. “These are exciting times at the intersection between the military, scientific and commercial spaces.”


Businesses interested in evaluating Army inventions for commercialization can contact Dr. Brian Metzger at brian.metzger@montana.edu or 406-994-7782.