DARPA eyes converting large aircraft into drone carriers

A Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber (Reuters / Tim Chong)

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a contest to find the best solution for large airplanes, such as C-130 transport planes, to carry small drones.

The agency has recently placed a “request for information” in order to explore the possibilities of launching swarms of small UAVs from already existing large aircraft.

“Small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have limited range and responsiveness, however, compared to larger airborne platforms,” DARPA stated. “Launching and recovering small UAS from those larger platforms could provide a cost-effective capability over a spectrum of operating environments to greatly extend the range of UAS operations, as well as enable an entirely new operational concept for mission sets that benefit from distributed employment.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is interested in the range of drones that would be able to carry out intelligence and military missions, thus limiting the risks that US pilots might otherwise take, DARPA officials said on Sunday, according to the Washington Post.

“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, a DARPA program manager.

“We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new [unmanned aerial systems] designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”

DARPA is likely to use planes like the B-52 Stratofortress bomber, B-1B Lancer bomber or C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

According to DARPA’s statement, organizations or individuals that would like to participate in the project must submit ideas by November 26, and their concepts should be realizable within four years. They have to include “system-level conceptual designs” and “feasibility analysis.”

Perhaps Hollywood could pitch some ideas of its own:


This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.