Dec 6, 2016

Tern Tailsitter Drone: Pilot Not Included

Posted by in categories: drones, military, robotics/AI

One of the oddest military drones aborning reinvents a stillborn technology from 1951. That’s because the unmanned aircraft revolution is resurrecting configurations that were tried more than a half century ago but proved impractical with a human pilot inside. The case in point: Northrop Grumman’s new Tern, a drone designed to do everything armed MQ-1 Predators or MQ-9 Reapers can, but to do it flying from small ships or rugged scraps of land – i.e., no runway needed.

“No one has flown a large, unmanned tailsitter before,” Brad Tousley, director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Tern’s primary funder, said in a news release. The key word there is “unmanned.”

Back in 1951, when all sorts of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft ideas were being tried, Convair and Lockheed built experimental manned tailsitters for the Navy. Convair’s XFY-1 and Lockheed’s XFV-1, nicknamed “Pogo” and “Pogo Stick,” each had two counter-rotating propellers on its nose and was to take off and land pointing straight up. Convair’s Pogo had a delta wing and, at right angles to the wing, large fins. Lockheed’s Pogo Stick had an X-shaped tail whose trailing tips, like Convair’s wing and fins, sported landing gear.

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