Ground troops may soon have smartphone-controlled drones

In the future, U.S. ground forces with a hard-to-reach destination and no air support might be using their own smartphones to fly drones

Ground troops may soon have smartphone-controlled drones

Concept art. (Photo courtesy of Darpa.mil)

By Toshio Suzuki
Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON   In the future, U.S. ground forces with a hard-to-reach destination and no air support might be using their own smartphones to fly drones, according to DARPA prototype research.

The fan-propelled drone, named the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System, is being designed for multiple deployment uses: cargo distribution and pickup; medevac extraction; and one of the most traditional drone uses  intelligence gathering.

In a release, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency used phrases such as "terrain-independent," "ground-based threats" and "cost-effective" when describing the mission goals for the ARES drone.

"Many missions require dedicated vertical take-off and landing assets, but most ground units don't have their own helicopters," said Ashish Bagai, a DARPA program manager.

Small drones piloted via smartphone are readily available on the open market, but the ARES would be capable of carrying 3,000 pounds. The tilting fans would allow for speedy flight and also slow, hovering landings at rugged outposts or on ships.

Defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin is the lead design company for the project, and renderings of the ARES show several different chassis, including one with wheels attached.

The ARES program began in 2009 under the Transformer name. 

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