DARPA’s TERN drone gives US Marines a new wingman

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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • Most of today’s drones are limited by the distances they can fly and the payloads they can carry, now the US wants an eye in the sky that can help protect, and resupply troops wherever they are


 

Terns are a family of shorebirds that can nest in marginal conditions and thrive everywhere from beaches to wetlands to rivers to inlets. Now TERN, or the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node, is a drone that’s been developed by Northrop Grumman for both the DARPA and the Office of Naval Research, with the goal of giving the Navy and Marine Corps a versatile flying scout that can support ships and troops almost anywhere they are – at land or sea.

 

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Earlier this week, DARPA announced funding for Phase III of the project, which aims to take it from a mere concept to a working, flying, fighting robot by 2018.

So what, exactly, does TERN do? It perches on ships, even small ships without runways, and then takes off vertically like a helicopter, before transitioning to plane-like horizontal flight in midair – in some ways it’s reminiscent to the hunter-killer jets you see in the Terminator movies. Not that i’m drawing any comparisons though – obviously…

 

 

That transition provides the flexibility of landing in small spaces, while also the efficiency of flying efficiently for long distances. With a planned range of 690 miles, TERN will greatly expand what the Navy can see at sea, as the autonomous drone observes and relays what it films via satellite link.

The TERN program also aims for 1,000 pounds of payload, so the drone can carry cameras, sensors, and weapons. The drone is designed for both scouting and air support, so that marines operating far from aircraft carriers or runways on land don’t have to fight without a friendly robot watching their backs from overhead.

 

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As designed, TERN can operate from any Navy ship with a helicopter landing pad, or even large guard rail – hey, why not!? After all, yes it’s high tech and one day it will be heavily armed but isn’t the original concept drawn from a small turkey like bird?

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Among other things Matthew keeps busy helping the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers ideate the next five generations of smartphones, and what comes beyond, the world’s largest chip makers envision the next twenty years of intelligent machines, and is helping Europe’s largest energy companies re-invent energy generation, transmission and retail.

Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who has been featured on the BBC, Discovery and other outlets. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them envision the future and helps them transform their industries, products and go to market strategies, and shows them how the combination of new, democratised, powerful emerging technologies are helping accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change.

Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Blackrock, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Du Pont, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, HPE, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, Rolls Royce, SAP, Samsung, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, Sopra Steria, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.

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