DARPA demonstrates SideArm UAS capture system

By Ryan Maass   |   Feb. 6, 2017 at 4:57 PM

Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently demonstrated the capabilities of its SideArm, a device built to catch unmanned aircraft in flight.

In a test conducted by Aurora Flight Sciences in December 2016, the SideArm was used to catch a Lockheed Martin Fury unmanned aircraft system weighing 400 pounds. While DARPA aimed to create a device capable of catching 900-pound craft, the system was able to recover 1,100-pound targets.

"We've demonstrated a reliable capture mechanism that can go anywhere a 20-foot container can go—the DARPA-worthy challenge we had to overcome to make SideArm's envisioned capabilities possible," program manager Graham Drozeski said in a press release. "We are pleased with the progress we've made enabling a wide variety of sea- and land-based platforms with persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and strike capabilities."

SideArm is being designed to fit into a 20-foot shipping container for easy transport with various platforms, including trucks and military aircraft. According to DARPA, a team of two people can set up or stow away the system in minutes.

While in operation, the system recovers unmanned aerial vehicles using a single rail to hook on the back of the aircraft, and directing it down the structure. DARPA says the system provides a slower, safer and more controlled recovery.

"SideArm aims to replicate carriers' capability to quickly and safely accelerate and decelerate planes through a portable, low-cost kit that is mission-flexible, independent from local infrastructure, and compatible with existing and future tactical unmanned aircraft," Drozeski added.

The system is being developed as part of the Tern program, a joint effort between DARPA and the U.S. Navy. In the future, U.S. defense researchers will identify potential transition partners, and experiment with other UAS platforms.

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