Here's a major first in the use of UAVs, on Saturday one of Lockheed's unmanned K-MAX helicopters delivered a sling load of supplies to Marines at a base in Afghanistan. This marks a pretty significant turning point in the development of drone warfare. For nearly a decade drones have been used to collect intelligence and drop bombs on bad guys. This is the first time a drone has been used to resupply a unit at war.
The benefits of this are pretty obvious. Resupply by the relatively cheap UAV means that fewer troops need to drive supplies to bases via treacherous roads, this saves lives and frees up troops to do actual fighting and nation building. Meanwhile, the use of a drone like the K-MAX also frees up more precious manned choppers to do more time sensitive missions like medevacs, close air support (for the Huey Cobras or Apache's that often accompany lightly armed supply and medevac choppers) and raid insertions.
Remember, the K-MAX will soon be joined in Afghanistan by Lockheed's robo jeep, the Squad Mission Support System. The Army plans to test out how well the little trucks -- that, like the K-MAX, can accommodate a human driver if needed -- can haul troops heaviest gear for them on foot patrols. The 11-foot trucks can carry half a ton of supplies for 125-miles. They even fit inside a CH-53 and CH-47 helos, allowing them to be airlifted to the most remote patrol bases. This could be the first step toward a fleet of unmanned trucks that ferry supplies along dangerous routes.