Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Air Systems

Manned and unmanned aerial systems, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft and supporting technologies

Showing 149 results for Air RSS
Effective 21st-century warfare requires the ability to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike mobile targets anywhere, around the clock. Current technologies, however, have their limitations. Helicopters are relatively limited in their distance and flight time. Fixed-wing manned and unmanned aircraft can fly farther and longer but require either aircraft carriers or large, fixed land bases with runways often longer than a mile. Moreover, establishing these bases or deploying carriers requires substantial financial, diplomatic and security commitments that are incompatible with rapid response.
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.
Cloudy skies, dust and other vision-obscuring conditions often limit the support capabilities overhead aircraft can provide warfighters on the ground. Airborne weapon systems that use electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) sensors during support missions can’t “see” through clouds, and current synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology can’t provide high-resolution video imagery of moving ground targets through clouds.
Current UAVs provide valuable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) coverage for troops deployed overseas. However, UAVs cannot stay airborne for extended periods of time before needing to be refueled or serviced. DARPA’s Vulture program seeks to develop critical enabling technologies for an airborne payload to remain on-station, uninterrupted for more than five years, performing ISR and communication missions over an area of interest.
| Air | Energy | ISR | Unmanned |