DARPA is working on ICARUS, the disappearing delivery drone

Pierluigi Paganini October 18, 2015

The DARPA research agency is launching a new Program subbed ICARUS for the development of a new generation of Disappearing drones.

I always follow DARPA because its innovative project, the last one that caught my attention is a new project on a new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles. The program is codenamed ICARUS (Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems), DARPA is working on “Disappearing Delivery Vehicles”, drones built with lightweight and cheap quality materials.

ICARUS drones could be used to deliver sensitive goods, then disappear, for example, falling apart and making its components completely useless.

ICARUS is born under the wider program known as Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR), which has developed self-destructing electronic components, including the DUST self-destruct microchips.

“Our partners in the VAPR program are developing a lot of structurally sound transient materials whose mechanical properties have exceeded our expectations,” said VAPR and ICARUS program manager Troy Olsson.

“A goal of the VAPR program is electronics made of materials that can be made to vanish if they get left behind after battle, to prevent their retrieval by adversaries.”

“With the progress made in VAPR, it became plausible to imagine building larger, more robust structures using these materials for an even wider array of applications. And that led to the question, ‘What sorts of things would be even more useful if they disappeared right after we used them?’” Olsson said. “In discussions with colleagues, we were able to identify a capability gap that we decided was worth trying to close.”

The new drones will be able to self-destruct when they will be in contact with water or when they will be instructed to complete their mission and to break apart.

icarus drones darpa

“DARPA is seeking to develop autonomous, precision, air delivery vehicles that both safely deliver their package(s) and physically vanish, i.e. the vehicle’s physical disappearance is part of its mission specification.”

DARPA’s ICARUS drones will be designed to vanish in a few hours of completing their mission. The experts are thinking to drones that would be able to drop off three-pound packages within a maximum radial difference of 32 feet of their designated target.

ICARUS drones could be used in both civil and military contexts; in a scenario for civil purposes the vehicles could be used to deliver food, perishable vaccines, insulin, and blood and plasma products in destinations in the aftermath of a natural disaster such as a tsunami.

In a military context, ICARUS drones could be used to provide to in field troops water, batteries or emergency medical supplies.

Which is the investment in the ICARUS program? DARPA will be injecting $8 million in a 26 month-period.

Stay tuned!

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – DARPA Icarus program, drones)

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