Darpa is working on a new project dubbed Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (Ares) which aims to supplement helicopters in the battlefield. Choppers are expensive both financially and in terms of manpower and training. This autonomous system aims to fix that problem.
The concept system is modular, meaning the flight part of the vehicle can attach to varying units. The twin titling ducted fans of the flight unit allow it to hover and land in areas half the size needed for a similarly sized helicopter. Then, with the fans titled, it can reach speeds comparable to those of a small aircraft.
The flight module itself would have its own power supply, fuel, digital flight controls and remote command and control interface meaning it's unmanned. The whole thing could be controlled from a tablet - allowing ground units to call one in for a pick-up.
Since the flight module is modular and can carry whatever is needed for the mission - be it cargo, casualties or surveillance equipment. These add-on modules can weigh up to 1360kg, making them more than 40 per cent of the aircraft's gross weight.
While this system is planned for military use we're excited about the potential for civilians. Imagine these buzzing about a city for rent, call one in using your app while driving in traffic and, like paying for a toll, skip the traffic. But that's really future-gazing.
The first Ares prototype test flight is planed for mid-2015.