On the front lines, there's always a risk of losing one side's equipment and supplies to the opposing force, but DARPA hopes to prevent that from happening with the ICARUS project.
ICARUS stands for Inbound Controlled Air-Releasable Unrecoverable Systems. It is a project that plans to develop prototypes capable of unmanned deliveries using GPS. These drones are designed for one-way deliveries, meaning they will literally vanish after serving their purpose.
It sounds a bit out of this world, but with DARPA's Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, it just might see the light of day in the near future. DARPA introduced the VAPR program in 2013, with IBM winning a $3.4 million contract to work on it. When these degradable electronics are successfully manufactured, the idea of equipment and supplies falling into the wrong hands will be a thing of the past.
"With the progress made in VAPR, it became plausible to imagine building larger, more robust structures using these materials for an even wider array of applications. And that led to the question, 'What sorts of things would be even more useful if they disappeared right after we used them?' In discussions with colleagues, we were able to identify a capability gap that we decided was worth trying to close," Troy Olsson, ICARUS and VAPR program manager, said in a DARPA news release.
DARPA says that the ICARUS project is essential, as it can provide much-needed support to sniper teams, disaster relief units and Special Forces in warzones or disaster-stricken areas. The drones will be able to deploy three-pound cargos filled with vital supplies, from perishable medicines to equipment.
The program's name fits its purpose perfectly. Just like Icarus, the man who flew too close to the sun, the drones will degrade after their deliveries, melting just like Icarus' wings.
Moving forward, a proposal day will be held on Oct. 15 in search for more potential partners on the ICARUS project.