Military Embedded Systems

DARP's TERN mobile-at-sea UAV program poised for development


March 11, 2013

Alice Moss

Military Embedded Systems

In keeping with current trends calling for continued development of unmanned and Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) tech, DARPA’s new Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) program calls for small, mobile, shipboard bases for UAVs – rather than traditional aircraft carrier bases or large-real-estate ground bases.

TERN, like its seabird namesake, aims for long flight endurance; specifically, TERN will offer orbit capabilities for Medium-Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV launching and recovery, courtesy of smaller combat ships such as those in the Littoral Combat Ship 2 (LCS-2) category, in addition to other surface combat vessels.

“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,” said DARPA Program Manager Daniel Patt, in a media 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.”

In search of companies to develop TERN, DARPA hosts its informational event, Proposers’ Day, on March 20, to acquaint potential participants with TERN’s technical objectives. Registration is open through March 18 at 12 p.m. ET. Details:




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