Formerly known as "Transformer," the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES) program is being developed with software from Lockheed Martin's famed Skunk Works, and hardware from Piasecki Aircraft of Essington, Pennsylvania, under a $77 million DARPA contract.
John Piasecki, head of Piasecki Aircraft, stated that the idea is to create an aircraft which will increase the mobility and range of small military units.
"Both the Marine Corps and the Army are looking to expand their expeditionary capabilities and be able to support what they call distributed operations over much broader areas. Doing that, they need to have the flexibility to aggregate and disaggregate at will in order to apply combat power," Piasecki asserted, according to Breaking Defense.
The fuselage can be configured to carry various payloads, including, sensors, life support gear, various supply items, or a remote-control ground-attack weapon delivered to troops.
DARPA program manager Shish Bagai claimed the aircraft would be able to cruise at 195 mph, with a ceiling of 20,000 feet, and have a mission radius of about 175 miles. The first flight of the drone was slated for last June, but was delayed due to "some developmental items [that] have required some additional testing," Bagai said. ARES is now scheduled for flight tests in the fall of 2017 at the earliest.