DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) program aims to develop and demonstrate a modular transportation system built around a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) flight module operated as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
Getting materials to troops in the field can be difficult, especially considering the rugged terrains and enemy threats on route to front line outposts. On average outposts require around 100,000 pounds of good of all kinds. Currently deliveries are covered by many means, helicopters can get good where they’re needed but availability of them is low due to their diverse uses, so ground vehicles cover the rests, putting troops in danger.
A solution devised by researchers and engineers at DARPA back in 2009 was the Transformer (TX) program which developed a prototype system able to transport personnel for small ground units. In 2013 the program developed further to the ARES (Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System) design.
“Many missions require dedicated vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) assets, but most ground units don’t have their own helicopters,” said Ashish Bagai, DARPA program manager. “ARES would make organic and versatile VTOL capability available to many more individual units. Our goal is to provide flexible, terrain-independent transportation that avoids ground-based threats, in turn supporting expedited, cost-effective operations and improving the likelihood of mission success.”
The main focus of ARES would be a VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) flight module which would work in a similar manor to a UAV but capable of transporting a payload. The carrying capacity of the module is aimed at 3,000 pounds, with the aim of the UAV being able to travel between its home and field operations to make deliveries or retrials. The proposed design looks like something straight out of science fiction, with twin tilting dual fans to provide lift that are able to take off and land vertically, this coupled with the size of the vehicle would reduce the required landing zone by around half, giving it an advantage in rugged terrain and on ships.
The project which is currently in the third and final stage of development would also be operable via a remote link through smart phones or ruggedized tablets, so eventually there’s probably going to be an iPhone app for that.