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 135 results for Air RSS
DARPA’s Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) research effort recently demonstrated a prototype of a low-cost, fully automated parafoil system designed to extend maritime vessels’ long-distance communications and improve their domain awareness. Towed behind boats or ships, TALONS could carry intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications payloads of up to 150 pounds between 500 and 1,500 feet in altitude—many times higher than current ships’ masts—and greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness.
It sounds like an engineering fantasy, or maybe an episode from Mission Impossible: A flock of small, single-use, unpowered delivery vehicles dropped from an aircraft, each of which literally vanishes after landing and delivering food or medical supplies to an isolated village during an epidemic or disaster. And it would be nothing more than a fantasy, were it not that the principle behind disappearing materials has already been proven.
Modern airborne warfare is becoming increasingly complex, with manned and unmanned systems having to rapidly share information in a volatile environment where adversaries use advanced, commercially available electronic systems to disrupt U.S. and allied communications. Complicating the communications challenge for allied warfighters, many current airborne radio networks are incompatible with each other, the result of security and radio frequency (RF) format differences between aircraft types. Specialized data-link gateways facilitate communication across network divides, but these gateways have limited capability and don’t allow high-data-rate information to flow freely and seamlessly among multiple types of manned and unmanned aircraft.
Small-deck ships such as destroyers and frigates could greatly increase their effectiveness if they had their own unmanned air systems (UASs) to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and other capabilities at long range around the clock. Current state-of-the-art UASs, however, lack the ability to take off and land from confined spaces in rough seas and achieve efficient long-duration flight. Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR), seeks to provide these and other previously unattainable capabilities. As part of Tern’s ongoing progress toward that goal, DARPA has awarded Phase 3 of Tern to a team led by the Northrop Grumman Corporation.
They may not have zoomed flawlessly around obstacles like the Millennium Falcon did as it careened through the hull of a crashed Star Destroyer in Star Wars VII. But the sensor-loaded quadcopters that recently got tested in a cluttered hangar in Massachusetts did manage to edge their way around obstacles and achieve their target speeds of 20 meters per second. Moreover, the quadcopters were unmanned … and real. Thus was the initial phase of data collection for DARPA's Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program recently deemed an encouraging success.