Fri. Jun 14th, 2024

Infrastructure is not needed: the Pentagon will create auxiliary UAVs that will be launched from sites “without facilities”

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jun6,2024

No infrastructure needed: the Pentagon will create auxiliary UAVs that will be launched from sites

The Pentagon's DARPA agency announced the start of development of the concept of auxiliary drones without the use of prepared infrastructure — ANCILLARY.

As noted in a statement on the official website of the US Department of Defense, based on today's orders from the US Army, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense has included in the list of priority tasks the development of the project concept of the Advanced Program for launching auxiliary drones without the use of infrastructure (ANCILLARY), reports ArmyInform.

The program is aimed at the development of an X-class light unmanned aircraft of vertical take-off and landing, with increased carrying capacity and the possibility of long-term operation. Six companies were selected to develop the final design of the project at the second stage: AeroVironment, Griffon Aerospace, Karem Aircraft, Method Aeronautics, Northrop Grumman and Sikorsky.

The selected companies were tasked with finding innovative methods of increasing payload weight and increasing range of small auxiliary unmanned aerial vehicles.

"The purpose of ANCILLARY— to triple the capabilities of small vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles compared to aircraft in use today», — Steve Komadina, DARPA's program manager for ANCILLARY, said in a statement.

The agency expects the selected companies to improve the design using new configurations, propulsion systems and controls. In addition, the plan aims to eliminate the need for specialized infrastructure to launch a drone.

The envisioned small unmanned aerial vehicle is expected to perform vertical takeoffs and landings, similar to helicopter landings, on ship launch decks and in remote locations on land, regardless of weather conditions. Moreover, it must perform tasks similar to a high-performance winged aircraft, even while carrying a significant payload.

"A group of these small unmanned aerial vehicles can be launched from a ship to provide F2T2 (search, lock, target tracking) surveillance of surface vessels of interest to the ship's commander,— said Steve Comadine.

According to DARPA, while the effort is expected to focus primarily on supporting the Navy and maritime missions, interest from multiple services is also significant because of the potential the technology could offer to other branches of the military. In particular, the Army, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and Coast Guard have expressed great interest in using these capabilities for logistics, strike operations, and special missions.

In the first phase (Ia), the support group studied the conceptual projects of nine companies of both traditional and non-traditional military contractors.

The six selected companies will now focus on finalizing the X-class drone designs in Phase Ib. In particular, the performers will continue designing, analyzing and testing in order to create a demonstration sample of the X-class drone. This prototype will demonstrate the technologies needed for a promising operational unmanned aerial vehicle capable of launching from Navy ships without the cumbersome mechanical launchers and landing/evacuation equipment currently in use.

According to the release.  DARPA, at stage Ib, the main attention will also be paid to reducing the systemic risks when the drone hovers.

After this 10-month phase, the teams will submit competitive proposals for the second phase, which will include detailed design, manufacturing and flight testing. DARPA plans to complete the project with flight tests of such an X-class drone, which will begin in early 2026.

As noted in the DARPA task plan, the X-class drones will introduce the basic technologies necessary for the operation of large-scale aircraft load capacity.

"We expect the operational capabilities provided by ANCILLARY to be complemented by other technologies being developed by various DoD research and engineering organizations, such as advances in sensors, electronic warfare, and especially autonomy and artificial intelligence", — explained Steve Comadine.

One of the companies selected for the project, Sikorsky, is already conducting flight tests to perfect its unique twin-propeller configuration, known as the "propeller wing". This configuration allows the aircraft to take off and land vertically, reminiscent of a helicopter, and smoothly transition into horizontal flight.

As indicated, if Sikorsky is selected to build the aircraft for the next auxiliary stage, it will be a 136 kilogram hybrid-electric aircraft with 27 kilograms of payload for reconnaissance, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

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