Inflatable aerostructures (wings, tails and fuselage components) have been present in aircraft applications since the 1950s. These components were derived from the Lighter Than Air (LTA) airships and fabric covered aircraft that preceded them by decades. Recent advances in materials have brought this long-used technology to a new level of performance, enabling its application to modern unmanned aerial systems.
Key benefits offered by inflatable wing structures include:
- Compact packaging of large vehicles
- Easy transport
- Damage tolerant construction
Examples include systems such as small UAVs delivered via a 6.1 in diameter shell from a ground asset or airborne C-130, release of a medium-sized UAV from an aerial platform such as Predator, or the rapid delivery of a large aircraft to distant locations from a transport missile.
We have demonstrated the efficacy of inflatable UAV technologies through fielded DoD aerostat systems, and numerous development programs with DARPA, aerospace primes, NASA, and university studies. Our LTA unmanned vehicles have been in continuous use by government and DoD users for decades. Evaluation programs have been conducted on a range of inflatable munitions, small UAVs, and large UAVs. The inflatable aerostructure technology is ready for broader application. ILC is currently building partnerships to create systems for military and civilian use.