DARPA SideArm prototype snags drones out of the air

DARPA has shown off a prototype of SideArm, a contraption that can snag drones out of the air and quickly bring them to a stop, doing so in order to recover drones after a mission. One possible use of SideArm is attaching them to the side of an aircraft carrier, where they would then help launch and, later on, retrieve UAVs weighing up to 900lbs. Obviously given its DARPA status, the contraption would be used for military purposes.

DARPA explains the SideArm prototype as being something like an aircraft carrier, but for drones, giving them a way to take off and 'land' for missions, but in a much more portable form. In this case, that portability means the prototype is small enough to be transported in an ordinary 20ft shipping container, facilitating transfer by rail, truck, aircraft, or ship.

Explaining the design concept, DARPA program manager Graham Drozeski said, "SideArm aims to replicate carriers' capability to quickly and safely accelerate and decelerate planes through a portable, low-cost kit that is mission-flexible, independent from local infrastructure, and compatible with existing and future tactical unmanned aircraft."

Because of its design, SideArm can be used as a standalone contraption, or as a drone launch/receiving port via truck mounting and ship mounting. It takes only 2 to 4 people to setup or store the device. DARPA says it is now looking for 'potential transition partners' for SideArm, which was developed as a joint effort between DARPA and the Office of Naval Research.