Future Trends

DARPA Bares Firms Advancing to Phase 1b of VTOL X-Plane Program

Advanced UAS program

DARPA Bares Firms Advancing to Phase 1b of VTOL X-Plane Program

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced that it has selected six concepts for a vertical take-off and landing uncrewed X-plane from nine design ideas submitted during Phase Ia of its AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY, or  ANCILLARY, program. 

The six companies behind the concepts – AeroVironment, Griffon Aerospace, Karem Aircraft, Method Aeronautics, Northrop Grumman and Sikorsky – will now move into Phase 1b to render their designs for a ship-based light VTOL X-plane with large payload and long endurance capabilities. During the 10-month phase, the companies will focus on risk reduction through such steps as higher fidelity analysis and component hover testing to mature their designs.

In ANCILLARY’s succeeding Phase II the participants will compete for proposals on complete design, fabrication and flight demonstration. The program’s flight tests are expected to start in early 2026, DARPA said Wednesday

Steve Komadina, ANCILLARY program manager, said the companies in the project’s Phase 1b will explore new configurations, controls and propulsion for the VTOL X-Plane while also eliminating its need for special infrastructure. DARPA anticipates that the uncrewed aerial system will mostly support Navy and Marine missions, although it has also received interest from other services, such as the Army, Air Force and the Coast Guard, Komadina noted. 

The ANCILLARY X-Plane’s potential for the Marines’ missions manifested in a $249 million contract that the service awarded in April to Teledyne FLIR Defense for the supply of small, advanced VTOL loitering munition systems.

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Category: Future Trends