DARPA Aims for the Mythological

Drawing inspiration from ancient myths, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is moving forward with its appropriately named ICARUS program to create delivery vehicles that vanish—not go unseen, but actually disintegrate—after unloading. DARPA kicked off ICARUS—Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems and named it after the mythological figure whose wax wings disintegrated when he flew too close to the sun—with a meeting last week, the program manager, Roy Olsson, told Air Force Magazine in an email. Earlier this month, DARPA awarded the first, Phase 1 contracts of the program, totaling more than $7 million, to Palo Alto Research Center, DZYNE Technologies, and MORSECORP to develop and demonstrate transient vehicles meeting DARPA’s specifications, said Olsson. In its October 2015 program announcement, DARPA said the “ICARUS program aims to mimic the material transience that led to Icarus’ demise, but leverages that capacity in scenarios with more uplifting endings.” The agency envisions the vehicles being used to deliver supplies to remote areas for humanitarian or operational purposes. The vanishing act would keep troops from having to deliver the supplies themselves, according to the broad agency announcement. The program aims to create a field-testable vehicle within two years that can deliver packages weighing less than three pounds and then vanish within four hours or within 30 minutes of morning twilight, whichever is earlier. According to the announcement, packages could contain items such as batteries, communication devices, and medical supplies.