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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 676-97
December 12, 1997

DARPA SELECTS MICRO AIR VEHICLE CONTRACTOR

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has selected for negotiation six proposals to develop flight-enabling micro air vehicle technologies as part of the Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) program. A total of approximately $12 million has been allocated by DARPA for the flight-enabling technologies effort over the next three years. Award of funds is subject to negotiation.

The selected proposals, which range in size from approximately $650,000 to $3,000,000, are listed below. Final amounts will be determined during negotiations.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. - “Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) Based Micro-Gas Turbine Engines for Micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)”
  • D-STAR Engineering, Shelton, Conn. - “Low-Observable, Safe-Operation, Fuel Efficient, Light Weight Propulsion and Power System for Advanced Micro Air Vehicles”
  • Technology in Blacksburg Inc., Blacksburg, Va. - “Thermoelectric-Based Advanced Micro-Air Vehicle (MAV)”
  • SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif. - “Flapping-Wing Propulsion Using Electrostrictive Polymer Artificial Muscle Actuators”
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn. - “An Elasto-Dynamic Ornithoptic Flying Robotic Insect”
  • California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. - “Micro Bat”

Under the flight-enabling technologies effort, performers will develop some of the underlying technologies that will be needed for the most advanced micro air vehicle systems of the future. These technologies include: advanced aerodynamics, flight stability and control; lightweight propulsion and power generation; low-power, light-weight navigation, communications and on-board processing systems; advanced structures; and unique sensor payload technologies. Research to develop these technologies will complement the development of micro air vehicle systems, and will enable future development of advanced micro air vehicles that will be defined later in the DARPA program.

Micro air vehicles are airborne vehicles that are no larger than six inches in either length, width or height and perform a useful military mission at an affordable cost. DARPA envisions individual soldiers at the platoon, company or brigade level using such vehicles for reconnaissance and surveillance, battle damage assessment, targeting, emplacing sensors, communications relays, or for sensing chemical, nuclear or biological substances. The vehicles will have to be able to conduct real-time imaging, have ranges of up to 10 kilometers and speeds of up to 30 miles per hour for missions that are 20 minutes to two hours long.

James McMichael, DARPA’s program manager for the micro air vehicle program, explained: “These systems are at least 10 times smaller than any current flying system. They will be uniquely suited to the challenges of small unit operations and operations in urban terrain. For the first time, they will give individual soldiers and Marines an asset that they own and control and that can provide real-time situational awareness and reconnaissance information.”

Four small businesses have been selected by DARPA to receive contracts under Phase II of the Small Business Innovation Research program to continue research and development in support of the Micro Air Vehicle effort. IGR Inc., Beechwood, Ohio, will complete the development and demonstration of a very lightweight Solid Oxide Fuel Cell, tailored to the electrical power requirements of MAVs. M-DOT Inc., Phoenix, Ariz., will continue to develop a very small (1.4-pound thrust) gas turbine engine. AeroVironment Inc., Simi Valley, Calif., will continue its development and flight demonstration of an electric-powered, fixed-wing, reconnaissance micro air vehicle. Aerodyne Corp., Billerica, Mass., will continue its development of a hover vehicle that will also explore the capabilities of the mini-scale engine being developed by M-DOT. Each company will receive a 24-month contract worth approximately $750,000 (subject to final negotiations).

DARPA also plans to select several efforts for micro air vehicle system development and demonstration. These additional selections, to be announced at a later date, will be to companies to actually design and demonstrate a six-inch micro air vehicle system

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