VTOL UAV Passes Critical DARPA, UX Navy Test

Northrop Grumman’s VTOL UAV passes critical tests on it's way to its first live flight.

Northrup Grumman has announced that its Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV concept has passed two critical design reviews and is well on its way to a full-fledged demonstration in 2018.

Built under the auspices of the Tactically Exploited Reconnaissance Node project (Tern Project), the VTOL UAV has been designed to take off from a vertical position, ascend to an acceptable elevation and then transition to a horizontal stance, from which it will undertake its missions.

Tern UAV's being laid up at a Northrop Grumman facility.

Tern UAV’s being laid up at a Northrop Grumman facility.

The Tern program passed its first milestone back in October, when its General Electric engine and configuration were approved for both vertical and horizontal flight.

Recently, the craft’s hardware and software architecture were also given the okay, setting the stage for an eventual live flight test.

According to Northrop Grumman, once fully functional, the VTOL UAV will have a range of 600 nautical miles and be able to carry 1,000 pounds of ordinance or surveillance payload.

The Tern project comes right in line with the military’s transition to relying on UAV’s for surveillance work and, in the near future, offensive capabilities as well. However, the decision to turn to a VTOL take-off paradigm shows that the military and Navy realize that while the space aboard ships and flight decks are limited, the envelope of their missions is expanding.

Apparently, Tern may be part of the solution to the military’s mission creep issues.

“Tern’s unique combination of speed, long endurance, range and altitude would give the Navy and Marine Corps a cost-effective, transformational capability to conduct ISR, light strike and other missions from the sea at ranges exceeding 600 nautical miles,” said Bob August of Northrop Grumman. “These successful milestones add confidence to our plan to demonstrate this new vehicle capability in 2018.”

Aside from being a stalwart aboard naval vessels, the VTOL UAV will also be deployed to support Marine expeditionary missions where forward surveillance is needed to keep soldiers safe and up to date with the realities on the ground.