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DARPA's New X-Plane to Make Leaps in Aerospace Tech

The program will study enhanced propulsion architectures and high-density batteries and fuel cells.

DARPA has a new program, Ancillary, and they hope it will develop and demonstrate new technologies that promise to leap VTOLs, vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, forward.

Ancillary, which stands for AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY X-Plane program (it's a loose acronym) wants to build a plane that can launch from any environment or ship flight deck, in any weather conditions, without any launch or recovery equipment, like the typical ground support equipment aircraft typically require. 

The new X-Plane would be low-weight with high-payload and long-endurance capabilities. A video from the agency shows a rendering of the aircraft flying supplies into a remote location. 

The program will study advanced propulsion architectures, like hybrid electric propulsion, high-density batteries and fuel cells, and advanced structures and manufacturing techniques. 

The idea is to give the plane a small form factor so several could launch from a ship and provide a fleet of surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting assets. They would also support point-to-point unmanned logistics operations.

According to Ancillary Program Manager Steve Komadina, the program could help minimize personnel, costs and vulnerability during sensitive operations

Recent VTOL research, fueled largely by non-traditional players, has led to advancements in new vehicle configurations, sizes, weights and power systems. New manufacturing techniques, like low-cost additive manufacturing, have also birthed the possibility for new architectures and designs.

On September 20, 2022, the program will hold a Proposers Day and Expo to bring together aircraft manufactures and non-traditional military contractors. Darpa extended an invitation to industry and academic technologists and researchers who have insight on new component and manufacturing techniques.

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