Advancing Utilization of Swarms for Sample Return and Multipoint Observation Using Inflatables

Case ID:

This technology is a system and method for an attachment to a mothership/craft or “bus” that uses space or ground-based inflatable structures to capture entire swarms of autonomous spacecraft, air, or unmanned aerial system (UAS) drones. A bell flower-like geometry is used for its ability to capture an incoming vehicle with randomized conditions and trajectories due to running out of fuel or damage to propulsion or guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) systems.

Inflatable systems have widespread applications in the aerospace and astronautics industries as habitats, atmospheric decelerators, debris capture systems, and methods of satellite dispersion from a mothership. Using inflatables for the purpose of capturing or retrieving swarms of air/spacecraft is an innovative implementation of available technology which has the capability to outperform many of the current methods like tethers and solid docking stations. 

The markets for CubeSats, microsatellites, deep space exploration, space robotics, drones, and swarm intelligence are forecasted to see moderate to high levels of growth in the 2020s. Given the proximity of this innovation to these markets, stable short-term demand can be expected. There is currently no mainstream industry standard for retrieving swarms of air/spacecraft to a mothership, so the competition may be fierce, but end-users are limited in their options.


  • CubeSat research
  • Aerospace and naval defense
  • Zero or low gravity inflatables
  • UAS usage, capture, and retrieval
  • Space sample collection and return 
  • Inflatable spacecraft docking/capture systems
  • Mechanical motherships with swarming satellites


  • Capable of capturing entire swarms of air/spacecraft
  • Capable of capturing damaged or malfunctioning spacecraft
  • Bell flower-like inflatables are optimal for capturing spacecraft with random conditions/trajectories
Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Tariq Ahmed
Sr Licensing Manager, College of Engineering
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Jekan Thangavelautham
Massimo Biella
Sivaperuman Muniyasamy
Leonard Vance
Athip Thirupathi Raj
Vivek Verma