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, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global futures and deep futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, GEMS, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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