Parasailing payload extends sensor range of DARPA's autonomous boat

DARPA has finished testing of the prototype of a low-cost, elevated sensor mast developed through the agency's TALONS research project(Credit: DARPA)

DARPA has put its Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) to the test off the coast of California. Towed behind the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), TALONS extends the range of radar and sensors by elevating them up to 1,500 ft (457 m) above the water.

During its 90 minute test, the TALONS sensor array started off in the nest on the back of the ACTUV boat, before deploying its parachute and rising to 1,000 ft (305 m) above sea level. Once it reached that altitude, it put its onboard sensors through a set of tests, before automatically reeling itself back into the back of the boat.

Compared to regular radar units, which are usually mounted on a crows nest sitting 150 or 200 ft (46 or 61 m) above the waterline, the parasailing sensor array managed a 500 percent increase in range. The team also attached a commercial omnidirectional radio transmitter to the array, and noted its range was more than three-times better at 1,000 ft than it was at sea level.

"TALONS showed the advantages of using a low-cost add-on elevated sensor to extend the vision and connectivity of a surface asset and ACTUV demonstrated its ability as a flexible and robust payload truck," said Dan Patt, DARPA program manager for TALONS. "This demonstration was an important milestone in showing how clever use of unmanned systems could cost-effectively provide improved capabilities."

Now the sea trials and demonstrations have been undertaken, DARPA will begin handing development of the TALONS project over to the US Navy.

Check out the TALONS payload being towed in the video below.

Source: DARPA

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