Unmanned Systems

DARPA awards deals to develop vanishing delivery drones

Pentagon researchers are moving with their plan to develop vanishing deliver drones that could deliver supplies to forward-deployed troops and then disappear.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded contracts to two companies for its Inbound, Controlled, Air‐Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems, or ICARUS, program, which seeks to develop an autonomous aerial system that could deliver 3-pound payloads to within about 32 feet of a GPS-programmed location and then fade away.

DARPA has awarded contracts of $2.3 million to Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, known as PARC, and $2.9 million to DZYNE Technologies for the project, Military & Aerospace Electronics reported.

The ICARUS was announced last fall, when DARPA released a solicitation calling for UAS that could deliver supplies such as medicines or other key provisions—to units such as Special Forces, sniper teams and first responder units—and then achieve “full and complete physical disappearance to the naked eye.”

Vanishing electronics has been of interest to the military. Considering their connectivity and the digital records they contain, researchers have been interested in devices such as cell phones or medical devices that would degrade if left behind or lost on a battlefield, either automatically if left unused or by remote command. DARPA in 2013 launched its Vanishing Programmable Resources program to create just such devices and later awarded IBM a $3.4 million contract for the program.

PARC and DYXNE have been hired under Phase 1 of what DARPA expects to be a two-phase project. The prototype vehicles developed should be able to be launched about 93 miles from a target zone from 35,000 feet altitude. They would save the military from having to use large parachute delivery systems that are more expensive and risky.

The research agency said it expects to award additional contracts under the ICARUS program.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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