Marines Partner with Tech Firm to Design Unmanned Resupply Vehicles

Marine infantry units deploying Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicles that support uses ranging from rapid personnel deployment, to command and control, casualty evacuation and supply transport missions. (Image: Polaris) | By Matthew Cox

The U.S. Marine Corps has partnered with a San Francisco-based innovation firm to design and build a new unmanned cargo delivery vehicle, as well as a new ground logistics vehicle.

The effort will create designs for the Modern Logistics Vehicle and the Unmanned Cargo Delivery System projects for the Corps by this spring, according to a Launch Forth press release.

Launch Forth, a subsidiary of LM Industries Inc., is a newly formed initiative designed to organize teams of designers, engineers and problem solvers to "co-create" innovative products and bring them to market quickly.

"This is about improving the lives of those who serve in the Marines by bringing customized solutions that improve day-to-day duty experience," project lead John B. Rogers Jr., a former Marine and chairman and CEO of LM Industries, said in the press release.

Once the designs are developed into initial prototypes, the Marine Corps will have a better idea of how they fit into or even improve the service's requirements process, Maj. Chris Wood, co-lead for Additive Manufacturing for the Marine Corps, told

"I am going to get a really good understanding of requirements that I have that leverage these best-of-breed technologies -- and then whether I want to take that direct prototype and go into production, or I just want to take some element of what I have learned and change an existing requirement ... or I want to shape an entirely new requirement and bring that into capability development," Wood said.

"That's where we see the most value with this project," he added. "We can get into requirements that are much more nontraditional and much more relevant to the warfighter than we traditionally do."

Rogers, the LM CEO, said in the release that the U.S. had "right-sized" equipment development in the aftermath of World War II.

"But it came at a cost of disengaging our Marines with the equipment they most needed," he said. "Today, we use the power of the internet and digital manufacturing to change that paradigm and engage our Marines with equipment solutions that are faster to the fight and more on target when they get there."

The concept-design phase of the MLV project is closed for submissions; the technical-design phase was launched Feb. 26 and closes March 25, according to the release.

Launch Forth, on behalf of the Marine Corps, will choose the winning design April 23, and guide the project through proof-of-concept and prototyping stages. Seven winners will receive a total of $10,000 in prizes for the design challenge, and eight winners will receive more than $40,000 in prizes for the technical challenge, the release states.

The Unmanned Cargo Delivery System project focuses on improving the safety and efficiency of moving small packages of cargo for Marines across areas all over the world. The UCDS could be designed to operate in multiple scenarios such as on land, air, sea and underground, according to the release.

The project is open to post brainstorms. The first design challenge will open March 26, 2018. Seven winners will receive a total of $10,000 in prizes, the release states.

Using open innovation to accelerate the product development process, Launch Forth allows talented people everywhere the opportunity to collaborate with minds from around the world, teaming up to work together to solve perplexing issues, according to the release.

LM Industries is also the parent company of Local Motors, a company known for breakthrough products such as the Rally Fighter, the world's first co-created production vehicle, and the Strati, the world's first 3D-printed car, according to the release.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at