DARPA Selects Six Designs to Enhance VTOL UAS Capabilities in ANCILLARY Program

World Defense

DARPA Selects Six Designs to Enhance VTOL UAS Capabilities in ANCILLARY Program

DARPA has selected six innovative designs for its ANCILLARY program to enhance VTOL UAS capabilities, aiming to triple current performance without special infrastructure. The program will culminate with flight testing by early 2026.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has advanced six innovative designs to the next phase of its AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY) program. The selected designs come from AeroVironment, Griffon Aerospace, Karem Aircraft, Method Aeronautics, Northrop Grumman, and Sikorsky. These designs were chosen from a pool of nine submissions, which also included Leidos, AVX Aircraft, and Piasecki Aircraft.

Program Goals and Objectives

The ANCILLARY program aims to significantly enhance the capabilities of small vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) uncrewed aerial systems (UAS). According to Steve Komadina, the DARPA program manager for ANCILLARY, the goal is to triple the current performance levels of these systems. The focus is on increasing payload weight, range, and endurance through innovative configurations, propulsion, and control mechanisms, all while eliminating the need for special launch and recovery infrastructure.

Design Requirements

The selected VTOL-capable aircraft are expected to operate from naval vessels without the need for large mechanical launchers and landing equipment. They must be capable of taking off and landing on ship decks and remote land locations, even in adverse weather conditions. These systems will provide beyond-line-of-sight capabilities for various missions, such as finding, fixing, tracking, and targeting surface vessels. While primarily aimed at Navy and Marine missions, the technology is also expected to benefit the Army, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and Coast Guard for logistics, strike, and special missions.

Development Phases

The program is currently in Phase 1b, where performers will focus on risk reduction, analysis, and testing for an X-plane demonstrator. This phase will last 10 months, culminating in competitive proposals for Phase II, which involves detailed design, fabrication, and flight testing. The entire project is expected to conclude with flight testing in early 2026.

Future Implications

The ANCILLARY program's success could revolutionize how small UAS are deployed and operated, offering greater flexibility and efficiency in various military operations. By removing the need for large infrastructure, these advanced VTOL systems could be rapidly deployed in diverse environments, enhancing mission capabilities and responsiveness.


DARPA's ANCILLARY program is poised to make significant advancements in the field of VTOL UAS technology. With six innovative designs moving forward, the program is on track to achieve its ambitious goals, potentially transforming the operational landscape for U.S. military forces across multiple branches.

Leave a Comment:
No comments available for this post.