Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Area Access

Relating to militarily contested or denied environments

Showing 9 results for Access + Air RSS
04/04/2017
DARPA has completed flight-testing of a sub-scale version of a novel aircraft design as part of its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) X-Plane program, and is proceeding with work to develop a full-scale version of the groundbreaking plane. Developed and fabricated by Aurora Flight Sciences, the revolutionary aircraft includes 24 electric ducted fans—18 distributed within the main wings and six in the canard surfaces, with the wings and canards tilting upwards for vertical flight and rotating to a horizontal position for wing-borne flight.
Difficult terrain and threats such as ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can make ground-based transportation to and from the front line a dangerous challenge. Helicopters can easily bypass those problems but present logistical challenges of their own, and can subject flight crew to different types of threats. They are also expensive to operate, and the supply of available helicopters cannot always meet the demand for their services, which cover diverse operational needs including resupply, fire-team insertion and extraction, and casualty evacuation.
In a target-dense environment, the adversary has the advantage of using sophisticated decoys and background traffic to degrade the effectiveness of existing automatic target recognition (ATR) solutions. Airborne strike operations against relocatable targets require that pilots fly close enough to obtain confirmatory visual identification before weapon release, putting the manned platform at extreme risk. Radar provides a means for imaging ground targets at safer and far greater standoff distances; but the false-alarm rate of both human and machine-based radar image recognition is unacceptably high. Existing ATR algorithms also require impractically large computing resources for airborne applications.  
For the past 60 years, helicopters have provided essential vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities–omnidirectional maneuverability, hovering, landing on almost any flat surface–for countless military operations. Even as VTOL aircraft technology continues to advance, however, one key goal still remains elusive: improving top speed beyond 150 kt-170 kt. Faster VTOL aircraft could shorten mission times and increase the potential for successful operations, while reducing vulnerability to enemy attack. Unfortunately, new VTOL designs so far have been unable to increase top speed without unacceptable compromises in range, efficiency, useful payload or simplicity of design.