The Defense Department’s chief tech visionaries are once again attempting to make the U.S. military’s dream of jetpack-equipped infantry troops a reality through a pair of fresh contracts, Task & Purpose has learned.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected “several” small companies to receive Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding awards “to build flight test prototypes” for the agency’s Portable Personal Air Mobility System program, a DARPA spokesman said.
Details regarding the contracts were not immediately available, but Phase II SBIR program funding “generally” consists of $750,000 for two years, according to information on the program’s website.
“DARPA is currently working with the small companies to finalize contracting details and award contracts, so at this time we can’t discuss the specifics,” the DARPA spokesman said.
DARPA officially announced in March 2021 that the agency’s small business programs office was looking for proposals “for cost of up to $225,000 for a 6-month period of performance” regarding the “feasibility” of the Portable Personal Air Mobility System that could reach ranges of “at least” 5 kilometers on the battlefield for a single operator.
“Some examples of technologies of interest include jetpacks, powered glides, powered swimsuits, and powered parafoils which could leverage emerging electric propulsion technologies, hydrogen fuel cells or conventional heavy propulsion systems,” DARPA wrote in its initial notice.
Prospective platforms “could serve a variety of military missions, enabling cost-effective mission utility and agility in areas such as personnel logistics, urban augmented combat, [combat search and rescue], Maritime interdiction and SOF Infil/Exfil,” DARPA wrote. “Systems may be air deployed to allow for Infil to hostile territory, or ground deployed to allow for greater off-road mobility without the use of existing Vertical Takeoff & Landing aircraft such as helicopters and CV-22 [Osprey tiltrotor aircraft].”