The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is seeking industry’s ideas on the feasibility of launching and recovering small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) from a large host aircraft. The agency published a request for information on providing “distributed airborne capabilities” on November 7, with responses due by later this month.
The “blended approach” to air operations that Darpa is studying would involve multiple reusable small UAS and airborne launch and recovery systems that require minimal modifications to an existing host aircraft, such as a C-130 transport. The agency seeks ideas on new operational concepts and mission applications for a distributed airborne system and said it hopes to make a significant investment in the area of “precision relative navigation” involving extremely coordinated flight activities.
Interested companies are instructed to submit brief responses of eight pages or less by November 26. These should also address plans to achieve a flight demonstration within four years.
“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky,’” said Dan Patt, Darpa program manager. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new UAS designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.” … (Read more)