DARPA has awarded two contracts in its plan to use ships as floating UAV platforms.
AeroVironment and Northrop Grumman were selected as prime contractors for Phase II of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) project, which aims to use small ships as forward-deployed launch platforms for medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft.
"To offer the equivalent of land-based UAS capabilities from small-deck ships, our Phase 2 performers are each designing a new unmanned air system intended to enable two previously unavailable capabilities: one, the ability for a UAS to take off and land from very confined spaces in elevated sea states and two, the ability for such a UAS to transition to efficient long-duration cruise missions," said DARPA program manager Dan Patt in a DARPA news release.
One contractor team will be selected for Phase III, which will focus on a demonstration system for ground-based testing. This will lead to a full-scale test on a destroyer-sized warship such as the Littoral Combat System (LCS).