The Pentagon Wants to Build Massive Flying Motherships for Drones

The Pentagon’s most famous mad scientists have started asking around to see if anyone has any bright ideas about how to launch and recover drones from other aircraft in flight.

The recent announcement by DARPA — the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has resulted in a little cascade of nerdgasms shivering across the internet, particularly by those who are just a little too into The Avengers because of the movie’s ginormous flying-ship-helicopter-base-carrier thing.

While the DARPA plans will have only the barest superficial resemblance to that violently improbable Hollywood vehicle, it’s not all war porn and bullshit either. The concept gives us a peek into the Air Force’s psyche.

The plan is create a big plane, like a bomber or transport — they specifically mention the B-52, B-1, and C-130 — to carry, launch, and recover much tinier drones with payloads of up to 100 pounds. The drones are an important part of the story: If it weren’t for them, DARPA wouldn’t be asking, and this would generate less buzz.

Drones are weird and new and technological. For folks so ancient they grew up before cable television — often the big decision makers in government — talking about “drones” is like talking about something being “space-age” or “computerized” or on the “World Wide Web.” It’s usually a telltale indicator that someone who doesn’t understand the technology is about to run around in circles, waving their arms to simulate understanding and/or interest. … (Read more)


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