As early as next year, the Department of Defense will test-fly an entirely new type of combat drone. The craft is called Ares, for Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System, and it’s designed to take off and land vertically. Unlike airplane-esque drones, which are cumbersome to launch and land, Ares could drop into a tight spot, unload supplies or rescue soldiers, and then zip up and away.
The remote-controlled prototype, now under construction by helicopter manufacturer Piasecki Aircraft and defense giant Lockheed Martin, relies on two massive, articulating ducted fans for lift and forward thrust in flight, much like the tilt-rotor Osprey used by the Marines. If all goes as planned, a fully autonomous production version is next, capable of carrying up to 3,000 pounds and forever changing the art of warfare.
Ares Combat Drone
**Weight: **about 7,000 lbs.
**Payload: **3,000 lbs.
**Wingspan: **42 feet
**Range: **250 nautical miles
**Top speed: **230 mph
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Popular Science.