PARC Develops Vanishing Autonomous Air Vehicles through Funds from DARPA

PARC is a Xerox company that has received funds from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through its Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) program.

The ICARUS program aims at creating a prototype air vehicle that has the potential to deliver small payloads in an autonomous manner to targeted locations and then disappears after the task it completed. PARC in cooperation with AeroVironment Inc. plans to produce particular materials and the air delivery system that can be made to disappear through a project within ICARUS that is referred to as On-Target Delivery and Disintegration Upon Stress-release Trigger (ONLY-DUST).

The project focuses on producing complex structures that are majorly firm during flight and storage, and at the same time permits reliable on-demand transience. It is possible to potentially scale up the DoD applications of the demonstration system because of its association with AeroVironment Inc., a leading company in unmanned, small aerial vehicles.

This project hopes to demonstrate an aircraft made entirely of a special transient glass material. Material transience occurs when it becomes unstable. The challenge has been to find an extremely stable material under a wide set of conditions that can instantaneously vanish, but only when commanded.

Scott Limb, Researcher, PARC

The technology that is used is a highly engineered glass material along with monitored stress profiles and embedded elements that enable making it structurally strong, but capable of instantly breaking into extremely small grains that are visible in normal conditions.

The expansion of PARC’s transient device technology into the structural area is represented by the project. Earlier research work illustrated the transient glass material as a substrate used for electronic products like sensors, chips and other such electronic devices that permit the electronics to disintegrate in a swift and remote manner on command, leaving dispersed particles that are small and invisible to the eye. This Disintegration Upon Stress-release Trigger (DUST) technology was produced under an earlier DARPA program, leveraging PARC’s intense knowledge in complex material modeling and also in the development of a fabrication process. ICARUS helps expand the applications of the transient device technology in electronics and complex structures of varied forms.

Through our DUST research and now ICARUS, we are building the capability to deploy transient materials for a wide variety of applications. It is fun to imagine devices and systems that can perform real-world functions for as long as you want them to and then literally disappear. We’re envisioning initial products for personal data security and environmentally friendly distributed sensors, with more to come.

Ross Bringans, Director of PARC’s Electronic Materials and Devices Lab

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