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DARPA seeks UAV for LCS 2

by Mike Hoffman on March 8, 2013

The U.S. military wants to build a medium-sized drone that it can fly off Littoral Combat Ship 2 (LCS2)-class ships.

Long endurance drones have caught the eye of naval leaders, and well, pretty much all military officials for their ability to collect intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). However, most of the drones that can stay in the air longest need an aircraft carrier or a land base to operate from.

While the LCS2 is certainly no zodiak, it’s still considerably smaller than a carrier.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) officials have put out a call for defense companies to submit designs for a drone that could carry 600 pounds worth of sensor equipment and fly between 600 to 900 nautical miles from its ship, according to an agency statement.

DARPA listed the requirements that they want to achieve with the new UAV. Below are those requirements:

• Devising a reliable launch and recovery technique that enables large aircraft operations from smaller ships, even in rough seas;

• Designing an aircraft with range, endurance and payload comparable to emerging land-based unmanned aircraft, while still meeting the demands of the maritime environment;

• Ensuring the entire system can operate with minimal, and preferably reversible, ship modifications and minimal personnel requirements for operations and maintenance; and

• Packaging the system to fit into the limited space aboard ships.

DARPA’s program manager, Daniel Patt, compared the new UAV he hopes to develop to a falcon that always returns. Patt said he hopes to have a demonstration prototype in 40 months.

“It’s like having a falcon return to the arm of any person equipped to receive it, instead of to the same static perch every time,” Patt said in a statement. “About 98 percent of the world’s land area lies within 900 nautical miles of ocean coastlines. 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.”

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