The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to develop inexpensive medium-altitude, long-endurance drones that can easily be integrated onto small ships, but as it embarks on the next stage of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program, at least one company will no longer be involved.
“Our team developed a truly innovative approach to addressing DARPA’s requirements, but our customer elected not to pursue our proposed solution,” Kirk Flittie, the company’s vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment, said in a news release. “We thank DARPA for the opportunity to apply our innovation toward developing a next generation unmanned aircraft system to protect U.S. Navy personnel.
DARPA envisions TERN as an unmanned aerial system that can be launched and recovered from ships and fly long distances to conduct persistent surveillance and strike missions, the agency said on its website.
“Ideally, TERN would enable on-demand, ship-based unmanned aircraft systems operations without extensive, time-consuming and irreversible ship modifications,” it stated. “The solution would support field-interchangeable mission packages for both overland and maritime missions. It would operate from multiple ship types and in elevated sea states.”
AeroVironment and Northrop Grumman [NOC] were recipients of phase two contracts last year. Spokesmen from DARPA and Northrop Grumman declined to comment on whether the company had been awarded a phase three contract to develop and fly a full-scale demonstrator.
During phase two of the program, vendors focused on preliminary design and risk reduction, DARPA said. AeroVironment in October 2014 was awarded a yearlong, $19 million contract for TERN phase two, which would conclude with subscale flight demonstrations, according to a company news release.
An AeroVironment spokesman declined to comment on the company’s offering for TERN and whether it would continue to independently develop it.