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DARPA Ancillary Tactical Drone (proposer)

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Ancillary hybrid-eletric VTOL Tactical Drone proposerE


Ancillary Tactical Drone (proposer)
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Arlington, Virginia, USA

On February 7, 1958, the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was formed by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in response to the Soviet launching of Sputnik 1 in 1957. The current name of the US Government organization is called Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and is located in Arlington, Virginia, USA. By collaborating with academia, industry and government partners, DARPA formulates and executes research and development projects to expand the frontiers of technology and science, often beyond immediate U.S. military requirements. Concept design credit: DARPA.

It is interesting to note, the name of the organization changed from its founding name ARPA to DARPA, in March 1972. Then the name was changed back to ARPA in February 1993. Then in March 1996, the name was changed back to DARPA.

On August 23, 2022, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Tactical Technology Office (TTO) announced plans sponsoring a Proposers Day to provide information to potential proposers on the objectives of the AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY) program in advance of a planned Program Solicitation. The Proposers Day is scheduled for September 20, 2022, at the Strategic Analysis, Inc. Executive Conference Center (ECC) in Arlington, Virginia, USA. DARPA also stated their Special Notice is not a Request for Information (RFI) and the government will not provide reimbursement costs incurred to participate in this Proposers Day.

The ANCILLARY program is seeking to develop and flight demonstrate an X-plane with the critical technologies required for a leap-ahead in long endurance, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned air system (UAS) performance. The UAS should be able to launch and recover from small ship flight decks and austere land locations in adverse weather without additional infrastructure equipment thus enabling expeditionary deployments.

The ANCILLARY vehicle should be in the 250-330 lb (113-150 kg) weight class, enabling many aircraft to be stored and operated from one ship, creating a tactical beyond-lineof-sight (BLOS) multi-intelligence sensor network capability. The envisioned vehicle will have the following characteristics as primary design objectives:

  • Launch and Recovery without Infrastructure
  • Extended Endurance and Range
  • High Payload to Weight Ratio at Tactical Scale
  • Robust Flight Controls and Relative Navigation

The request for a VTOL long endurance heavy-lift infrastructure-less launch and recovery tactical drone concept design, might be one of the first of its kind where the technology as matured enough for a manufacturer to successfully design and manufacture this type of aircraft. While not stated specifically by DARPA, an aircraft of this type would most likely have a hybrid-electric power source with batteries. In addition, the DARPA graphic shows the ducted fans to be powered by electric motors.


  • Aircraft type: Hybrid-electric (most probably) VTOL long endurance heavy-lift infrastructure-less launch and recovery tactical drone concept design
  • Piloting: Remote or autonomous
  • Capacity: Tactical equipment
  • Cruise speed: Unknown
  • Range: Long-range
  • Flight time: Long flight time.
  • Cruise altitude: Unknown
  • Empty weight: 250-330 lb (113-150 kg)
  • Maximum payload: Heavy-lift payload weight
  • Propellers: Unknown
  • Electric motors: Unknown
  • Power source: Hybrid-electric (most likely)
  • Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
  • Wings: Unknown
  • Tail: Unknown
  • Landing gear: Unknown

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