Darpa's Next Drone Could Be a Datalink Between Planes and Ships

The Pentagon’s far-out research scientists aren’t just trying to build a drone that can operate off the deck of a small warship.

They’re starting to describe their new-mark flying robot as a device that bridges the communication systems between ships and aircraft. And if they can pull it off, Darpa will be giving the U.S. military a capability it badly needs for one of its major initiatives.

Last month, Darpa announced a program to design something called the TERN, for Tactically Exploitative Reconnaissance Node, a surveillance and strike drone that can fly up to 900 miles from the deck of a destroyer or Littoral Combat Ship. Darpa wants it to be “substantially beyond current state-of-the-art aviation capabilities from smaller ships,” according to the full, formal solicitation for the drone that the agency released Tuesday.

And how. The solicitation seems to emphasize the “Node” aspect of TERN. Among the intriguing requirements that Darpa “encouraged” its potential research teams to explore is the ability for the drone to “exploit cooperation between aircraft and ship to achieve enhanced performance. Such cooperation could potentially take the form of data exchange, external energy addition, or manipulation of the recovery environment.”

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Source: Wired

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