DARPA Picks 5 Contractors to Develop Long-Range Drone for Small Ships

military waterFive companies have won contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to help design unmanned aircraft that can launch from small ships, Military & Aerospace Electronics reported Sunday.

John Keller writes the agency’s Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node program envisions smaller vessels as mobile launch and recovery platforms for medium-altitude long-endurance drones.

DARPA has picked Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), AeroVironment Inc., Aurora Flight Sciences,   Carter Aviation Technologies and Maritime Applied Physics Corp. for the contract’s initial phase, according to the report.

“Enabling small ships to launch and retrieve long-endurance UAVs on demand would greatly expand our situational awareness and our ability to quickly and flexibly engage in hotspots over land or water, ” said Daniel Patt, a DARPA program manager.

The program is meant to help the U.S. military deploy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and strike aircraft in almost any location, according to the report

TERN aims for the UAV to carry a 600-pound payload, fly at ranges of up to 900 miles and operate from
littoral combat ships, amphibious transport docks and military cargo vessels.

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