The US Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) has awarded a contract to Aurora Flight Sciences for the tactically exploited reconnaissance node (TERN) programme.
Under the $2.8m contract, Aurora will design a deployable unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of launch and recovery from small naval ships, while addressing the challenges of capture dispersion, capture load management, and ship-board integration with a minimal on-board footprint.
Aurora's CEO and founder John Langford said TERN will allow unmanned air vehicles, featuring significant payload capabilities, to operate from a large number of ships that do not have runways.
"Aurora's TERN solution would be a disruptive technology capable of transforming how the US Navy conducts operations in the 21st century," Langford said.
The Aurora approach is expected to meet or exceed all of the TERN programme requirements, while providing potentially innovative and low-risk solution for DARPA that could be affordably transitioned to the warfighter.
The TERN programme intends to enable the US Department of Defense (DoD) to quickly and easily deploy less expensive airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike mobile targets.
With an operational radius of 600 to 900nm, the UAV should be capable of carrying a 600lb payload, whereas the launch and recovery systems would be designed to fit on littoral combat ship 2 (LCS-2)-class ships and other surface combat vessels, according TERN programme.
In addition, the fixed wing UAV should feature surveillance and communications capabilities as well as enable troops to routinely operate from existing naval ships while extending effective range and operational capabilities.
Image: Artist's concept of UAV. Photo: courtesy of US Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA).