NASA's Langley Research Center has developed an unmanned aerial vehicle concept for long-range, distributed aerial presence and delivery applications. This aircraft concept is capable of delivering multiple independent payloads over a range of more than 60 miles. The aircraft concept consists of two sub-aircraft: a “mother” vehicle and several “children” vehicles. The mother and children vehicles may operate both independently of one another and as a composite assembly. When not assembled, the mother and children vehicles rely on embedded ducted rotors for vertical lift and general propulsion.
Basic operation is as follows:
The assembled vehicle takes off either vertically under the power of the ducted propellers in a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) operation or conventionally utilizing the propulsion system(s) of the mother (and potentially children) vehicles.
If performing VTOL operations, the vehicle transitions to forward flight after achieving a safe height.
When at the primary rendezvous point, the assembled vehicle transitions to a hover position. Once in a hover, the children vehicles undock from the assembled vehicle.
The children vehicles fly to independent locations for delivery, data collection, search-and-rescue operations, or science mission tasks. They then return to the primary rendezvous point.
The vehicles dock to form the assembled vehicle.
The vehicle transitions to forward flight and flies back to the takeoff location.