The U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Agency is leading the effort with a program called Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node.
"About 98 percent of the world's land area lies within 900 nautical miles of ocean coastlines," said Daniel Patt, DARPA program manager. "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."
Proposals are being sought by the agency for the design, development and demonstration MALE UAV and an associated automated launch and recovery system for small ships. The UAV would have to carry a 600-pound payload and have an operational radius of 600-900 nautical miles from its host vessel.
The work would be focused on a system that would fit a Littoral Combat Ship 2 class ships or similar vessels.
"We're trying to rethink how the ship, UAV and launch and recovery domains -- which have traditionally worked in parallel -- can synergistically collaborate to help achieve the vision of base-independent operations for maritime or overland missions," Patt said.