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Autonomous VTOL X-Plane Advances to Next Design Phase for DARPA

The UAS would be able to launch and recover from ship flight decks and small austere land locations.

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Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the next design phase of its autonomous vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, as part of the AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY) program.

  • DARPA’s ANCILLARY Phase 1b air vehicle design and system technology maturation award will have a 10-month period of performance to increase modeling fidelity, perform critical subsystems testing, and reduce key technical risks.  
  • Northrop Grumman will leverage its expertise in the development and integration of autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) systems and highly efficient long-endurance aircraft to advance its ANCILLARY air vehicle design for DARPA.
  • One step closer to building a flight demonstrator, in this phase Northrop Grumman will lead a collaborative team, including Leigh Aerosystems and Near Earth Autonomy, to meet project goals and transition an affordable near-term capability to the warfighter community.

DARPA's ANCILLARY program aims to develop and demonstrate an X-plane with the critical technologies required for a leap-ahead in long endurance, VTOL 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 and locally commanded responsive intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR/T) with unique payload capabilities. Unlike large VTOL systems, the small UAS size would allow many aircraft to be stored and operated from one ship, creating a tactical beyond-line-of-sight, multi-intelligence sensor network capability.

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