After the androids (not the software) and the killer-dog robots, U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is planning to develop Transformer-style drones that can assist army personnel on battle lines.
Rough terrains, improvised explosive devices, and tracking systems pose a constant challenge to ground-based transportation and logistics with the use of helicopters and aircraft not being feasible at all times. In order to address these challenges, DARPA has come up with Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES); the unmanned drone that will be capable of transporting troops, supplying resources, and even evacuating injured personnel in emergency situations where other options have failed.
The ARES is flexible, terrain-independent, and has VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) capabilities. It can be fitted to specially designed containers and even other vehicles. It is also designed to have its own power system, digital flight controls, fuel, and remote command and control interfaces. Twin tilting duct fans ensure that the vehicle hovers and lands comfortably in a compact configuration, with sufficient flight performance and range.
The “transformer” drone is capable of landing on rugged terrains and aboard ships as it requires a much smaller landing zone than a helicopter.
DARPA has yet to disclose if this unmanned vehicle could possibly attack or defend itself. However, it is sure to be deployed for activities such as causality evacuation, setting troops in hazardous environments, gathering intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. The technology is in its final stages of development. Lockheed Martin Skunkworks is behind the design and system integration processes for ARES.
An artist’s rendering of the Aerial Reconfigurable embedded system (ARES). (DARPA)