Shot Down? The USAF Now Wants To Air-Drop An Air Taxi To Fly You Out To Safety

In the midst of a future conflict, an American fighter jet is shot down while operating over hostile territory. The terrain is too complicated and risks are too great to send in a traditional combat search and rescue team, so U.S. commanders turn to a novel option: air-drop a small, ultra-quiet autonomous air vehicle with short or vertical take-off and landing capabilities near the crash site so the downed aviator can fly to safety.

Though it may sound like a scene straight out of a sci-fi war movie set in the near future, this is a concept the U.S. Air Force wants to actively explore. The Air Force Research Laboratory first posted the request for proposals for what they blandly described as a “Personnel Recovery / Transport Vehicle” on the U.S. military’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program website on May 2, 2019.


MQ-9 automated landing, takeoff

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) completed the first-ever automated landing of an MQ-9 Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), followed by the first auto-takeoff. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) developed the automatic takeoff and landing capability (ATLC).

?This new, all-weather capability greatly increases the autonomy, flexibility, combat effectiveness, and safety of the MQ-9 Reaper for the USAF,? says David R. Alexander, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI.

Auto launch and recovery during critical phases of RPA flight enlarges the operational envelope for cross-wind operations and divert-field landing. The ATLC development program remains on track for fielding in Q4 2019.