A new project, financed by The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is believed to construct drones that can "fully vanish within four hours of payload delivery or within 30 minutes of morning civil twilight (assuming a night drop), whichever is earlier."
The Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) project was named after the boy in Greek mythology who approached too close to the sun causing his feather and wax wings to melt. However, nowadays the missions will be much easier to accomplish: the US military doesn't expect drones to return so they will only be one-way trips.
The project is expected to receive up to $8 million, enough funding for two years.
According to DARPA, it is out for "proposals for the design and prototyping of vanishing air delivery vehicles capable of precise, gentle drops of small payloads."
The ideal drone is expected to be capable of dropping a delivery of 3 pounds (1.4 kg) within 33 feet (10 meters) and be no larger than 10 feet (3 meters) in length.
The aircraft must be able to travel 93 miles (150km).
"Achieving appropriate transience rates without degrading the structural properties may pose a significant technical challenge when engineering existing transient materials, for example sublimating polymers," DARPA acknowledges.
The idea is to develop an aircraft capable of saving time by delivering packages to remote areas, operations that often require secrecy.
DefenseOne reported that the goal of making such advanced drones that can vanish in a smoke cloud is boosted by another similar project in the agency called Vanishing Programmable Resources (Vapr) which is working to make gas out of polymers from a solid form.
When the drone disappears, its wreckage must all dissolve as well and not exceed a grain of sand, DARPA says.