The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded contracts to five defense firms to develop ideas for new unmanned aerial systems that will serve the U.S. Navy’s newest combat ships.
The contracts went to Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Va., Carter Aviation in Wichita Falls, Texas, Maritime Applied Physics Corp., in Baltimore, Md., AeroEnvironment in Monrovia, Calif., and Northrup Grumman in Falls Church, Va. Each of the contracts is valued at less than $3 million, and will be used by each company to develop concepts for DARPA’s Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, or TERN, program, according to a recent press release.
The new UAS will be expected to provide video and other reconnaissance data for both peaceful and battle operations, and the aircraft will need to be launched from a variety of Navy ships, including the new Littoral Combat Ship. Many of these ships have little room for a landing strip, so the TERN UASs must be capable of very short take offs and landings.
To meet this short take-off and landing requirement, Carter Aviation plans to offer its Slowed Rotor/Compound technology that uses a slowly turning rotor to act as a fixed wing for efficient level flight, but can spin up the rotor for vertical take-offs, the release states. The other vendors will all have their own concepts to meet the terms of the DARPA contract.
DARPA has announced that there will be follow-on contracts once the initial concepts have been developed and reviewed.