The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) will fund Rockwell Collins to demonstrate autonomous recovery from “extreme damage and failure” scenarios on two unmanned aircraft over the next 15 months.

The new contract represents the third phase of an earlier program that proved the Rockwell Collins could recover control of a subscale F/A-18 model after a planned in-flight ejection of 60% of the aircraft’s right wing.

The work is part of the company’s damage tolerance and advanced controls research, which in phase two proved that the technology could help an aircraft survive catastrophic wing damage, recover its baseline performance, and safely land.


Phase three flight tests will demonstrate increasing damage to both the subscale F/A-18 and an operational unmanned aircraft system, including the failure of control surfaces and parts of the wing, as well as loss of vertical and horizontal tail surfaces. The flight tests will also include an “engine-out” condition followed by automatic adaptive recovery and emergency auto-land.

 “This next phase of the Damage Tolerance program will demonstrate that technology exists to reliably control UAS operating under the most challenging conditions such as extreme damage, upset or failure,” says Darpa.