C4iSR: Air

SideArm undergoes successful testing

07 February 2017
SideArm is primarily targeted at naval applications. Source: DARPA

Aurora Flight Sciences has successfully tested a full-scale technology demonstrator of the SideArm unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) retrieval system.

Video of the tests released by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) shows several instances of the SideArm system capturing a 400 lb (181 kg) Lockheed Martin Fury UAV. The Fury UAV uses a tailhook to catch a line from which it is guided along a rail to a stop and is ultimately captured in a net; according to DARPA this method gives the SideArm an advantage over existing UAV net capture systems as it provides slower, more constant and controlled deceleration, which is safer for the vehicle.

The tests proved the ability to retrieve a Fury UAV flying at operational speeds. (DARPA)The tests proved the ability to retrieve a Fury UAV flying at operational speeds. (DARPA)

The demonstrator was engineered by Aurora Flight Services under a contract that dates back to October 2014 and the testing took place in collaboration with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in December 2016 with repeated captures of the UAV flying at operationally representative speeds; DARPA said the system will eventually be capable of capturing devices weighing up to 1,100 lb.

Once fully developed, SideArm will create a compact launch-and-recovery system to be used on small ships or in a truck-mounted configuration for land-based applications. In a release, Graham Drozeski, DARPA's programme manager for the SideArm effort, explained the advantage of the system's portability. "We've demonstrated a reliable capture mechanism that can go anywhere a 20 ft container can go," adding that SideArm provides an aircraft carrier-like aviation capability to platforms that would not otherwise be able to support it. "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."

SideArm represents Phase 1 of research investment by DARPA and the ONR under the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node (TERN) programme.

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