Sikorsky, Northrop Grumman Progress in DARPA's VTOL UAS Development Program

Companies advance flight tests and design phases for DARPA’s ANCILLARY VTOL UAS initiative
  • bureau
  • 04:23 AM, May 23, 2024
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Sikorsky, Northrop Grumman Progress in DARPA's VTOL UAS Development Program
Northrop Grumman's ANCILLARY VTOL aircraft

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, and Northrop Grumman have advanced in developing vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) under DARPA’s AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY) program.

Sikorsky is conducting flight tests to mature the control laws and aerodynamics of their VTOL UAS. This system utilizes a twin proprotor 'rotor blown wing' configuration, enabling it to take off and land like a helicopter and transition smoothly to horizontal forward flight. The design aims to enhance efficiency and scalability for long-endurance missions, such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISR/T). Current tests are on a battery-powered proof-of-concept vehicle, with plans to develop a 300-pound hybrid-electric version if selected for future phases.

Sikorsky, Northrop Grumman Progress in DARPA's VTOL UAS Development Program
Sikorsky's rotor blown wing tail sitter VTOL UAS

Northrop Grumman has also advanced to the next design phase of their autonomous VTOL UAS. This Phase 1b award includes a 10-month performance period focusing on enhancing modeling fidelity, testing critical subsystems, and mitigating technical risks. Northrop Grumman, alongside partners Leigh Aerosystems and Near Earth Autonomy, aims to develop a system capable of operating from ship decks and unprepared land surfaces in various weather conditions. The objective is to provide an affordable, long-endurance VTOL UAS that supports expeditionary deployments and responsive ISR/T operations, with multiple aircraft being stored and operated from a single ship to create a tactical multi-intelligence sensor network.

Both companies' advancements support DARPA's goal of demonstrating a Class 3 UAS VTOL X-Plane that can launch and recover without infrastructure, thereby enhancing the operational capabilities of the U.S. military.

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