Northrop Grumman to Design AVTOL Aircraft for DARPA’s Autonomous VTOL Program

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has been awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to develop an autonomous VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) uncrewed aircraft system. The project, known as ANCILLARY (AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY), aims to design a cost-efficient and versatile aircraft capable of operating from a moving Navy ship at sea.

The ANCILLARY demonstrator will be built on an agile platform, enabling it to operate independently of traditional runways. It will have the capacity to carry a 60-pound sensor payload, providing enhanced endurance with 20 hours’ time on station and a mission radius range of 100 nautical miles. The system will be designed to require minimal additional infrastructure, relying primarily on the onboard resources of the aircraft. Moreover, it will possess the capability to conduct landing operations on a ship even in adverse weather conditions.

The ANCILLARY aircraft will have a wide range of applications, including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting missions. It will also support expeditionary missions for special operations forces and facilitate logistical operations, offering cost-effective ship-to-shore transportation of parts and supplies. Tim Frei, Vice President of Research and Advanced Design at Northrop Grumman, expressed the company’s enthusiasm for the collaboration with DARPA, stating that the ANCILLARY program will leverage their expertise in developing and operating uncrewed vertical lift aircraft for the U.S. Navy.

DARPA’s ANCILLARY program aims to achieve a significant advancement in the performance of long-endurance, VTOL unmanned air systems (UAS). The goal is to develop an X-plane that can launch and recover from ship flight decks and small land locations, even in adverse weather conditions, without the need for additional infrastructure. This capability will enable expeditionary deployments and create a tactical beyond-line-of-sight, multi-intelligence sensor network.

The collaboration between Northrop Grumman and DARPA in the ANCILLARY program represents a major step forward in autonomous VTOL technology and its applications for military operations. The project will push the boundaries of unmanned aircraft systems, opening up new possibilities for enhanced operational capabilities.

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