Every day, it seems like technology is more science fiction than reality. The Pentagon’s newest idea is one example. The United States government wants to develop a drone that dissolves by the light of morning - or within four hours after it delivers its payload - whichever happens first.
The government seeks to develop this technology after opposing forces have intercepted some drones sent to deliver various items to coalition forces and refugees needing equipment.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”) hopes to solve this problem and other issues associated with bringing equipment home after a completed mission. The agency is funding a new research project initiative to develop drone aircraft that can “fully vanish within four hours of payload delivery or within 30 minutes of morning civil twilight (assuming a night drop), whichever is earlier.” This mission statement was posted on the agency’s website earlier today.
The agency has titled the program Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems, or ICARUS, after the Greek mythical boy who flew too close to the sun thereby melting his wings. The mission for DARPA’s ICARUS is not to fly too close to the sun, but rather dissolve after one-way trips.
DARPA officials wrote in an announcement that the agency wishes to address a “capability gap in eliminating the leave-behind of air vehicles used to deliver supplies to personnel on the ground without requiring pack-out. Such pack-out of these systems is cumbersome, time-consuming, and adds significant weight to the individuals’ loads.” The program is expected to last about 26 months and cost about $8 million to fund.
The agency set the goal after it experienced some early success with their Vanishing Programmable Resources, or VAPR, program. Essentially, DARPA has had success with the passage of a substance directly from its solid form into a gas. Poof! Up in smoke!
The aircraft they seek to build will be able to travel approximately 93 miles, drop a payload of about three pounds within 10 yards of its set destination, and be no larger than about three yards in length.
DARPA acknowledges that, “Achieving appropriate transience rates without degrading the structural properties may pose a significant technical challenge when engineering existing transient materials, for example sublimating polymers.”
In other words - it will be difficult to create a vampire drone.