Providing yet further evidence that we are living in the Avengers universe, the U.S. military's futuristic tech agency has announced that it is soliciting ideas for converting existing large aircraft into flying platforms for launching drones.
The idea is similar to another DARPA initiative, the controversial Hydra Project, which aims to develop a network of undersea motherships that would be capable of deploying both underwater and aerial drones.
This new project, called Distributed Airborne Capabilities (sorry, no cool name or acronym this time around), also builds on current DARPA research, which aims to create drone squadrons that will have the ability to behave collaboratively during combat and surveillance missions.
The ultimate goal is to simplify and diversify. Rather than trying to cram all sorts of hardware into a single large and expensive drone, DARPA envisions several smaller, unpiloted aircraft, each carrying specialized equipment, working in tandem with one another.
The downside of this approach—which DARPA acknowledges in this new solicitation—is that smaller drones have limited range compared to their larger, more well-endowed cousins. But a "large aircraft that, with minimal modification, could launch and recover multiple small unmanned systems from a standoff distance," outside the combat zone, could provide DARPA with a cost-effective capability to effectively extend the range of its drone squadrons.
The candidate aircraft include the B-52, the B-1 and C-130. If you have any ideas on how to pull this off, you have until November 26 to submit your proposal.