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Northrop Grumman Autonomous VTOL X-Plane

Northrop Grumman will leverage its expertise in autonomous vertical lift aircraft to advance the design and system technology for DARPA’s ANCILLARY autonomous VTOL uncrewed aircraft system [© Northrop Grumman]

Northrop Grumman’s autonomous VTOL X-Plane for DARPA’s ANCILLARY programme advances to next design phase.


Press Release, Redondo Beach CA, 22 May 2024: Northrop Grumman Corporation has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the next design phase of its autonomous vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, as part of the AdvaNced airCraft Infrastructure-Less Launch And RecoverY (ANCILLARY) programme.

  • DARPA’s ANCILLARY Phase 1b air vehicle design and system technology maturation award will have a 10-month period of performance to increase modelling fidelity, perform critical subsystems testing, and reduce key technical risks.
  • Northrop Grumman will leverage its industry-leading expertise in the development and integration of autonomous vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) systems and highly efficient long-endurance aircraft to advance its ANCILLARY air vehicle design for DARPA.
  • One step closer to building a flight demonstrator, in this phase Northrop Grumman will lead a collaborative team, including Leigh Aerosystems and Near Earth Autonomy, to meet project goals and transition an affordable near-term capability to the warfighter community.

Christopher Harris, programme manager, ANCILLARY, Northrop Grumman: “Northrop Grumman’s expertise in VTOL autonomous systems is built on thousands of flight hours of ship-based operational experience with the US Navy. We are pairing forward-looking and industry-leading technical capabilities to provide next-generation intelligence gathering solutions via the ANCILLARY autonomous system.”

Details on ANCILLARY: DARPA’s ANCILLARY programme aims to develop and demonstrate an X-plane with the critical technologies required for a leap-ahead in long endurance, VTOL UAS performance. The UAS would be able to launch and recover from ship flight decks and small austere land locations in adverse weather without additional infrastructure equipment, thus enabling expeditionary deployments and locally commanded responsive intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (ISR/T) with unique payload capabilities. Unlike large VTOL systems, the small UAS size would allow many aircraft to be stored and operated from one ship, creating a tactical beyond-line-of-sight, multi-intelligence sensor network capability.


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