DARPA Taps Firms for New UAS Effort


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.

About the Author

Matt Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at Military.com. He can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.
  • blight_

    Next, Lockheed, NG, Boeing acquires these small firms, changes their corporate culture and the cost overruns begin anew!

  • Owe Johnst

    Judging by all the corruption and incompetence with the F-35 and F-22, I would say that U.S. domination is going to be over in 20 years or less.

  • Owe Johnst

    But, hey, a few key players will be rich so, it’s worth it.

  • Big-B

    look what darpa brings for christmas :-)

  • Hunter76

    Darpa shows its smarts. Landing UAVs on non-carriers is the future.

  • hibeam

    The Marines will surely insist on a manned version of the UAV.

    • Really?

      LOL. All UAVs are in a sense manned, albeit by remote control. None of the UAVs in the current lineup are smart enough to be fully autonomous.

      That said, the marines is full of donkeys and I won’t be surprised to hear some really donkey requests from them.

  • TomTom NoGo

    Blight, NG is already in on the program. Boeing and the rest doesn’t have funds to match Carter’s self-valuation - search for Carter_Business_Plan.2009 by Fitzgerald.

  • Lance

    Quit wasting this on that junky LCS make it for DDG 1000 and current Cruisers and Destroyers.

  • Gary Gudlunus

    Theories and how we did in the last war drive the hopefulness of each and every breakthrough technology. When was the last time the US Navy actually fought a multi-ship engagement, say, perhaps with a carrier group, other than war-gaming on a table or computer? How successful were their strategies, ship designs, crew training, and current, for the time, technologies? Exactly, toooooo long ago. Their dominance intimidates other navies to not even try. Yet, there is this lingering, if not haunting wonderment if they and we are being arrogant, to the point of initial failure when confronted with a whole new way of fighting a major naval engagement. They have been successful in supporting land war. But, what about a full on, all in, naval battle/war.., The likes of WWII. Are we adaptable enough to make initial, costly errors and false assumptions, and eventually swing back and win?

    • Jacob

      Well since you bring that up, do we even know with certainty how a modern naval war between peer competitors would look like? I mean, we used to think we’d fight Japan with fleets of battleships, until Pearl Harbor happened and the British battleships were sunk off Singapore. Then we found out our torpedoes didn’t work, that our sailors didn’t know how to fight at night, and there were more optimal carrier air group compositions than what we initially had. Would something similar occur in a future war? Would that war even last long enough for us to adapt?

  • Musson

    I cannot help recalling the towed rotary wing scout the WWII subs would raise for over the horizon viewing.

    It seems like a rotary UAS could be launched from a cable towed behind the vessel. Then, it could be recovered by a similar cable tethered to a balloon or second rotary wing and wenched into the hanger.