The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded contracts to AeroVironment and Aurora for the development of a new class of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and a SideArm launch and recovery system, respectively.
Under the contract, AeroVironment's team will follow its successful phase one concept design effort with a 12-month, $19m phase two preliminary design for the tactically exploited reconnaissance node (TERN).
AeroVironment's contract is in line with DARPA and the US Office of Naval Research's vision of a new concept of using smaller ships as mobile launch and recovery sites for medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAS.
With TERN, the navy and the US Marine Corps will be able to deploy persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and strike capabilities across the globe.
AeroVironment UAS business segment senior vice-president and general manager Roy Minson said: "Our team represents the best combination of relevant expertise and technology leadership to make TERN a reality.
"Our innovative approach to achieving DARPA's objectives for TERN holds the promise of an entirely new category of unmanned aircraft system[s] that could operate more quickly and effectively by deploying from smaller naval vessels for longer, more distant missions."
As part of phase one of the TERN programme, Aurora successfully assessed the SideArm technology, verifying that it could comply with requirements for aircraft launch and recovery.
The Aurora SideArm project comes with the integration and assessment of SideArm technology, which can be rapidly transformed as per military use.
Aurora programme manager Graham Drozeski said: "Aurora developed the SideArm technology to a high degree of maturity in phase one of TERN.
"We have a path where continued development of the technology could make a near-term impact. The SideArm programme focuses efforts on that opportunity."