Military Embedded Systems

DARPA's cross-program testing demonstrates sensor payload


October 24, 2016

Mariana Iriarte

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA's cross-program testing demonstrates sensor payload

ARLINGTON, Va. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency?s (DARPA) engineers completed cross-program testing under the agency?s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) and the Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) programs. Engineers demonstrated a prototype of an elevated sensor mast developed through the TALONS research effort onboard the ACTUV vessel.

The ACTUV program is currently undergoing open-water testing off the coast of California. Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager for ACTUV, says “we just started at-sea testing of ACTUV in June, and until now we've been focused on getting the basic ship systems to work. TALONS was our first chance to demonstrate hosting a real payload and showing the versatility of ACTUV to do a wide variety of missions for which it wasn't originally designed.”

Engineers performed the demonstration over a two-day period with 90 minutes of flight each day. Officials explain, the payload started out from its “nest” installed on the back of the ACTUV vehicle. It then expanded its parachute and rose to an altitude of 1,000 feet, where it tested its onboard sensors and communications equipment. When the test was complete, the prototype reeled itself in back to the nest.


Officials say, the TALONS demonstrated improvements to the range of the sensors and radios. For example, TALONS’ surface-track radar extended its range by 500 percent compared to its range at sea level.

In this cross-program demonstration, TALONS showed the advantages of using the add-on elevated sensor to extend vision and connectivity of a surface asset, while ACTUV demonstrated its ability as a flexible payload truck, says Dan Patt, DARPA program manager for TALONS.

TALONS is part of DARPA’s Phase 1 research for Tern, a joint program between DARPA and the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR). With the at-sea demonstration complete, DARPA officials state they are transitioning TALONS to the Navy.

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