DARPA's latest drone program just took a turn for the better. The Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) is designed as a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) flyer for the US Navy. Like its avian namesake, TERN will be a sea-based flyer. The drone is designed as a sort of super crow's nest, flying from small vessels and scouting out the ocean ahead.
Moving an army is no easy task, and it's even harder when that army wants to travel by air. Working with NASA and the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Army is developing a new fleet of helicopters to carry troops into battle, and into the future. Some helicopter designs from the early 1960s are still in use. There's been decades of innovation since then, and as we can see from the artist's rendering above, the Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator design could be radically new.
The US Navy has a brand new robot designed to make ships safer by fighting fires. The “Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot,” or SAFFiR, is a project by the Office of Naval Research that aims to prevent shipboard fires from sending sailors to a watery grave. In the works for years, the Navy unveiled a working prototype of the project this week.
Last week, a new U.S. Navy robot swam near the Joint Expeditionary Base near Norfolk, Virginia. The robot is known by two names that run the gamut from Pixar-cuddly to over-the-top action movie. Project Nemo, a.k.a. GhostSwimmer, is a tuna-inspired bot that might protect soldiers in the future by going where humans can't or shouldn't.
Testing modern naval weapons in a realistic way is tricky. In order to operate properly, ships need a crew, but there are times, like determining whether a new anti-missile weapon actually works, where having people on deck is an unnecessary risk. To square this circle, the U.S. Navy took the USS Paul F. Foster--an old, out-of-use destroyer--and made it unmanned, ready to be destroyed.
Right now, the U.S. Navy has a warship with a laser gun patrolling the Persian Gulf. The USS Ponce is an old ship that first saw service as an amphibious transport in the 1970s, designed to carry troops, vehicles, and helicopters close to beaches. Saved from a scrapyard, the U.S. Navy strapped a laser to its back and sent it forward, turning it into a cold warrior testing the waters of the future.
Apart from America’s nuclear arsenal, the 10 active aircraft carriers of the U.S. Navy are the most powerful single units of military might in the world. While the combined ranges of ships and planes mean carriers can place bombs on most of the Earth’s surface, the ships are still limited to operating in water. Air, however, covers all of the earth, and a new request from DARPA wants to bring carriers to anywhere there’s sky.