Developing a second test vehicle will help project partners improve their research, DARPA officials sya. Photo courtesy DARPA
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- DARPA has begun funding a second demonstration vehicle to support the third phase of Tern, a joint project with ONR and Northrop Grumman.
The objective of Tern is to develop new unmanned aerial vehicles for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps to deploy from small-deck forward ships such as destroyers and frigates. The aircraft, which are designed to alternate between vertical and horizontal flight modes, are to be fitted with surveillance and strike capabilities. DARPA officials say a second test vehicle will streamline the project's completion.
"DARPA has been thinking about building a second Tern test vehicle for well over a year," program manager Dan Patt said in a press release. "Adding the second technology demonstrator enhances the robustness of the flight demonstration program and enables military partners to work with us on maturation, including testing different payloads and experimenting with different approaches to operational usage."
Funding for a second test vehicle follows several milestones in the program, including wing fabrication, engine tests, and software integration. DARPA researchers will also soon begin testing a one-fifth-scale version of the vehicle to develop a better understanding of its aerodynamic performance.
"We're making substantial progress toward our scheduled flight tests, with much of the hardware already fabricated and software development and integration in full swing," DARPA Tactical Technology director Brad Tousley explained. "As we keep pressing into uncharted territory -- no one has flown a large unmanned tailsitter before -- we remain excited about the future capabilities a successful Tern demonstration could enable: organic, persistent, long-range reconnaissance, targeting, and strike support from most Navy ships."
DARPA researchers hope to start integrated propulsion system testing in early 2017, and ground-based testing in 2018.