A U.S. military research program that seeks to develop a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can launch and recover from relatively small ships for long-term maritime surveillance has grown to five separate contractors.
UAV experts from Carter Aviation Technologies LLC in Wichita Falls, Texas; Northrop Grumman Corp. in Arlington, Va.; and Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. in Manassas, Va., are the latest companies to join the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.
The DARPA TERN program seeks to overcome limitations of Navy shipboard aircraft surveillance. Helicopters are relatively limited in their maximum distances and flight times, for example, while fixed-wing manned and unmanned aircraft must operate from aircraft carriers or large land bases with long runways, although they can fly farther and longer than helicopters.
Carter Aviation Technologies, Northrop Grumman, and Aurora Flight Sciences join AeroVironment Inc. in Monrovia, Calif., and Maritime Applied Physics Corp. (MAPC) in Baltimore on the initial phase of the TERN program. Carter won a $2.2 million TERN contract on 6 Sept., Northrop Grumman won a $2.9 million TERN contract on 6 Sept., while Aurora won a $2.8 million on 17 Sept. AeroVironment and MAPC won their TERN contracts in August.