UV - Unmanned Vehicles

SideArm launches, retrieves UAS

8th February 2017 - 01:02 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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DARPA's SideArm research effort has reached a new milestone, with Aurora Flight Sciences successfully testing a full-scale technology demonstration system capable of meeting project requirements.

The SideArm effort seeks to create a self-contained, portable apparatus able to horizontally launch and retrieve UAS of up to 900lbs from trucks, ships and fixed bases.

The full-scale demonstrator tested by Aurora Flight Sciences successfully repeatedly captured a 400lb Lockheed Martin Fury UAS accelerated to representative flight speeds via an external catapult. The system is capable of recovering aircraft up to 1,100lbs, exceeding DARPA's design objectives.

SideArm fits in the footprint of a standard 20ft shipping container for easy transport by truck, ship, rail, C-130 aircraft and CH-47 helicopter. The system is designed to operate in truck-mounted, ship-mounted, and standalone/fixed-site facilities.

The system's launch and capture equipment are combined into a single rail that folds for transport. Rather than traditional capture methods that use a net to catch the UAS, the system snags a hook on the back of the vehicle and directs the hook to travel down the rail. This approach provides slower, more constant and controlled deceleration, which is safer for the vehicle.

Graham Drozeski, DARPA program manager, said: 'SideArm aims to replicate carriers' capability to quickly and safely accelerate and decelerate planes through a portable, low-cost kit that is mission-flexible, independent from local infrastructure, and compatible with existing and future tactical unmanned aircraft.

'We've demonstrated a reliable capture mechanism that can go anywhere a 20ft container can go—the DARPA-worthy challenge we had to overcome to make SideArm's envisioned capabilities possible. We are pleased with the progress we've made enabling a wide variety of sea- and land-based platforms with persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and strike capabilities.'

SideArm is part of DARPA's individual investment in Phase 1 research for the Tern programme. With this demonstration complete, DARPA is working to identify potential transition partners and exploring using SideArm with other UAS platforms.

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