Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets—and their pilots—at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach—one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch and recover multiple small UAS. Such an approach could greatly extend the range of UAS operations, enhance overall safety, and cost-effectively enable groundbreaking capabilities for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other missions.
To explore and expedite the possible development of these potential benefits, DARPA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (http://go.usa.gov/AWpm) seeking technical, security and business insights addressing the feasibility and potential value of an ability to launch and recover multiple small unmanned air systems from one or more types of existing large manned aircraft, such as C-130 transport planes.
“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.”
The new RFI invites short (8 pages or less) responses that must address three primary areas:
Technology development beyond these three areas will be considered so long as it supports the RFI’s goals. DARPA is particularly interested in engaging nontraditional contributors to help develop leap-ahead technologies in the focus areas above, as well as other technologies that could potentially improve both the survivability and effectiveness of future manned and unmanned air systems.
Responses are due November 26, 2014 to DARPA-SNemail@example.com by 4:00 PM Eastern Time. All technical and administrative correspondence and questions regarding this announcement and how to respond should be sent to DARPA-SNfirstname.lastname@example.org.
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