The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently demonstrated the capabilities of its SideArm device that paves way toward self-contained, portable apparatus to launch and retrieve unmanned aircraft from trucks, ships, and fixed bases.
The system is developed to catch unmanned aircraft flying with high speed. The test was conducted by Aurora Flight Sciences in December 2016, in which the SideArm was used to catch a Lockheed Martin Fury unmanned aircraft system weighing 400 pounds, DARPA announced Monday.
While DARPA aimed to create a device capable of catching 900-pound craft, the system was able to recover 1,100-pound targets.
"We've demonstrated a reliable capture mechanism that can go anywhere a 20-foot container can go the DARPA-worthy challenge we had to overcome to make SideArm's envisioned capabilities possible," program manager Graham Drozeski said.
SideArm is being designed to fit into a 20-foot shipping container for easy transport with various platforms, including trucks and military aircraft. A team of two people can set up or conceal the system in minutes.
Another feature of the system is that while in operation, the system recovers unmanned aerial vehicles using a single rail to hook on the back of the aircraft, and directing it down the structure. However, the system provides a slower, safer and more controlled recovery.
"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," Drozeski added.
SideArm fits in the footprint of a standard 20-foot shipping container for easy transport by truck, ship, rail, C-130 transport aircraft, and CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter. The small-footprint system is designed to operate in truck-mounted, ship-mounted, and standalone/fixed-site facilities.
The system is being developed as part of the Tern program, a joint effort between DARPA and the US Navy.