DARPA conducts initial test for elevated sensor mast on commissioned Navy vessel

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT, Florida. The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency's (DARPA’s) Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems (TALONS) research program recently demonstrated its prototype of a low-cost, elevated sensor mast aboard a commissioned U.S. Navy vessel for the first time, as the crew of USS Zephyr, a 174-foot Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship, evaluated the technology demonstration system over three days near Naval Station Mayport, Florida.

officials say that towed aloft behind boats or ships, TALONS could persistently suspend intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance () instruments and payloads of up to 150 pounds at altitudes between 500 and 1,500 feet above sea level, many times higher than current ship masts, which would greatly extend the equipment’s range and effectiveness.

The agency reported that TALONS demonstrated safe and routine operation from the ship’s deck in a variety of sea states and wind conditions without adversely affecting the ship’s operational capability. During testing, the system significantly improved the ship’s ability to detect, track, and classify contacts of interest and also increased communications range between the Zephyr and its remote platforms, including its accompanying rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).

Scott Littlefield, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said of the Zephyr TALONS test: “We’re very pleased with the USS Zephyr testing, which showed that a future system based on TALONS could provide operational benefits for even small Navy vessels. In the next year, we will continue our cooperative relationship with the U.S. Navy and work toward fully automating launch and recovery, which would make the system even easier to use on manned vessels and compatible with unmanned surface vessels.”

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