The S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier may not be as futuristic as it once seemed.
DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense's advanced research agency, is soliciting ideas to transform planes into "aircraft carriers in the sky" that could transport, launch and retrieve unmanned drones. Clearly the Pentagon is thinking small before moving on to the flying fortresses of Marvel comics and films.
The idea here is to overcome the drones' shortcomings in "speed, range and endurance" by modifying existing large manned aircraft to serve as transport planes to haul them into action.
“We want to find ways to make smaller aircraft more effective, and one promising idea is enabling existing large aircraft, with minimal modification, to become ‘aircraft carriers in the sky’,” Dan Patt, DARPA program manager, says in a statement. “We envision innovative launch and recovery concepts for new UAS designs that would couple with recent advances in small payload design and collaborative technologies.”
Responses are due by Nov. 26. Hydra agents need not apply.