The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully tested a towed airborne lift of naval systems (Talons) prototype.
Talons is designed to extend maritime vessels' long-distance communications and improve their domain awareness.
According to DARPA, this low-cost, fully automated parafoil system can be towed behind boats or ships and also can be deployed by hand from smaller boats, or by mast from larger ships.
The system will be capable of carrying intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and communications payloads of up to 150lb between 500ft and 1,500ft in altitude, which is higher than current ships' masts.
Prior to open-water testing, DARPA started the system's rapid development in June 2014 with land-based testing near Tucson, Arizona.
In December 2014, the agency performed mock-up testing and measurement near Assateague Island National Seashore in Virginia.
Following this, DARPA started bench-testing the system in March and field testing on the water in early May, as well as a field run through June near Baltimore, Maryland, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
During this period, DARPA launched more than 20 Talons flights that tested the system under various wind conditions and also developed it for different platforms.
Field testing witnessed Talons team enhancing hand-deployment techniques for smaller boats and sent the system up to 500ft in altitude.
Talons is part of DARPA's Phase 1 research for Tern, a joint programme between DARPA and the US Navy's Office of Naval Research.
DARPA is expected to provide Talons technology to the US Navy after successful testing.
In April, DARPA tested the full Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) prototype system for the first time, as part of a US Marine Corps infantry/aviation training exercise, Talon Reach.
The testing saw the first successful integration of automated, digital, real-time co-ordination capability into a military aircraft system.
Image: The Talons system is designed to extend maritime vessels' long-distance communications and improve their domain awareness. Photo: courtesy of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.