Thursday, April 18, 2024

Northrop Grumman to design VTOL uncrewed aircraft system for DARPA

Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office to develop an autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) uncrewed aircraft system capable of operating from a moving Navy ship at sea.

Called AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY), the demonstrator will be designed as a cost-efficient, multiple-mission capable vehicle built on an agile platform that is runway independent.

DARPA’s ANCILLARY program aims to develop, and flight demonstrate an X-plane with the critical technologies required for a leap ahead in long endurance, VTOL unmanned air system (UAS) performance.

The UAS would be able to launch and recover from ship flight decks and small, austere land locations in adverse weather without additional infrastructure equipment, thus enabling expeditionary deployments.

The small UAS size would allow many aircraft to be stored and operated from one ship creating a tactical beyond-line-of-site, multi-intelligence sensor network capability.

Northrop Grumman’s ANCILLARY prototype will carry a large 60-pound sensor payload with greater endurance of 20 hours on station and a mission radius range of 100 nautical miles (185 km). The system will also have the capability to land on a ship even in adverse weather conditions without additional infrastructure.

In addition, the aircraft will be able to perform intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, targeting missions, and supporting expeditionary missions for special operations forces and logistical missions with significant affordability impacts for the ship-to-shore transition of parts and supplies.

“In collaboration with DARPA, Northrop Grumman will work to significantly enhance how future autonomous vertical lift aircraft will operate at sea and ashore,” said Tim Frei, vice president of research and advanced design at Northrop Grumman. “The ANCILLARY program enables us to combine our digital engineering expertise with extensive knowledge and insights from past successes in developing and operating uncrewed vertical lift aircraft for the U.S. Navy.”