The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is planning swarming tests of its Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft (CICADA) MK5 from a US Navy P-3 Orion aircraft.
CICADA is a palm-sized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed to be deployed from a sonobuoy canister and in essence is a flying circuit board with autopilot controls built into the wings.
The air vehicle is GPS guided and self-stabilises using spin recovery manoeuvres that have been tested at a wind tunnel at the NASA Langley Research Center, an NRL spokesperson told Jane's, at the Navy League Sea, Air, Space symposium at National Harbor, Maryland, on 5 April.
CICADA currently carries Micro-Electro-Mechanical- (MEM)-based pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors, and estimates the vertical wind profile during descent. CICADA uses an onboard GPS to provide position, time and altitude and guide itself to a specific location on the battlefield.
The CICADA has a 65 g flight weight and descends at a rate of around 1,000 ft per minute.
The MK5 fits into a sonobuoy tube fitted with a parachute. After being launched from an aircraft, the canister releases all the CICADAs. A single tube can hold 32 of the small air vehicles, stacked two at a time, nose to tail.
The launch system has now been approved by the US Naval Air systems Command for deployment from a P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.
With the basic research effort complete, the CICADA programme is hoping to transition the technology to industry or a military sponsor who could tailor it for a specific mission.
To date, NRL has delivered 150 CICADAs to the NASA Langley Research Center.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options: ihs.com/contact