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BMT secures patent for revolutionary delivery drone tech

British maritime company BMT Group has been granted a new patent for the Sparrow autonomous “air-ground payload transfer device” for use with delivery drones.

British maritime company BMT Group has been granted a new patent for the Sparrow autonomous “air-ground payload transfer device” for use with delivery drones.

The device patent was granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office on 11 March after BMT held a world-first demonstration of the Sparrow at the UK Ministry of Defence’s Army Warfighting Experiment innovation event in November last year.

An independent assessment of the Sparrow by the British Army concluded that it could enable the use of uncrewed aerial system (UAS) to deliver payloads in the most challenging terrain, reducing risk to the airframe, the payload, and personnel.

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BMT UK and Europe regional business director Phil Metcalfe said the device takes over responsibility for the final moments of payload delivery and is better suited to challenging and sensitive environments.

“This small, highly ruggedised robotic device could even autonomously collect packages as well as deliver them without the need for infrastructure on the ground,” he said.

“With the development of this autonomous and highly versatile concept, the project team have delivered a great example of how BMT actively applies its innovation to solve its customers’ complex problems.

The autonomous Sparrow lowers both itself and the payload at the bottom end of a long, low-profile, weight-bearing line. By doing so, it addresses issues regarding large, noisy or hazardous delivery drones having to hover or land close to people or in cluttered environments to reach their payload destination.

The Sparrow has autonomous control of its own descent using an internal drum, while making precise and immediate horizontal adjustments to counter wind effects using four small, quiet pusher fans; allowing the larger delivery drone to remain higher, relatively unheard, and unobtrusive at ground level.

According to BMT, controlled delivery is possible from 200 feet in windy conditions or around 500 to 1,000 feet in light winds with additional options for higher drops.

“During 30 years of working in aerospace, I have not seen anything like the surge in new aircraft, systems, and applications that has happened in the last five years,” said BMT development partner Dr Steve Wright, from Wright Airborne Computing.

Sparrow is a perfect example of this revolution, fuelled by a happy convergence of 21st century technologies harnessed together by computers and software that engineers like me could only dream about 30 years ago.”

The concept was initially developed for defence purposes as a resupply device used to distribute sterilised medical equipment to potentially hostile locations. The alternatives of using parachute drop were unacceptably hazardous and larger, powerful drones were a risk to people on the ground.

The technology is also being considered for applications with manned helicopters, maritime ship-shore deliveries, support to maintenance engineers on tall structures, emergency services, and e-commerce deliveries to domestic addresses.

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