DARPA has been developing shape-shifting, cargo carrying unmanned aerial vehicles in a bid to augment current delivery methods. It is getting increasingly more dangerous to deliver the huge supply loads that comabt bases require and although helicopters are a possible solution, supply of available helicopters can’t meet the demand for their services, which cover diverse operational needs including resupply, tactical insertion and extraction, and casualty evacuation. DARPA researchers think they have the answer to these challenges.
“Many missions require dedicated vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) assets, but most ground units don’t have their own helicopters,” Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager, said in a press statement. “ARES would make organic and versatile VTOL capability available to many more individual units. Our goal is to provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation that avoids ground-based threats, in turn supporting expedited, cost-effective operations and improving the likelihood of mission success.”
Working with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the DARPA’s Transformer program has been developing prototype vehicles since 2009. Finally last year, it was decided that the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) concept was the design that would be used and become a building platform for future Transformers. The ARES will be able to carry out a variety of tasks and be controlled remotely from the ground via a smartphone or tablet and possibly even be capable of a semi-autonomous flight. Delivering cargo will be no problem for the modular UAV as two ducted fans will produce the vertical lift and forward thrust needed to get the heavy loads off the ground.
DARPA is hoping to develop various mission-specific modules so that ARES can transport any type of cargo, whether it be casualty extraction, cargo containers or reconaissance payloads.
The key aim for the researchers is to create a vehicle that will ultimately reduce casualties and save lives.
[Image via DARPA]