USS Coronado tests new low cost unmanned aerial system

US Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado recently helped researchers from the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) test their new, low cost, unmanned aerial vehicle ‘Nomad’.

Tests concluded in August and helped demonstrate the Nomad’s upgraded launch and control capabilities as well as a new recovery capability by launching multiple vehicles in quick succession, conducting formation flying operations, and recovering all vehicles sequentially onboard the USS Coronado.

“Nomad, is a low-cost rotary wing vehicle in which researchers can test remote control, autonomous flight control, station keeping and safe coordinated flight supporting any number of possible future payloads,” says co-principal investigator Steve Tayman, senior aerospace engineer with NRL’s Vehicle Research Section (VRS). “The unique form factor provides compact, light-weight storage in an integrated launch tube, and allows for storage in a ready-to-use condition for quick reaction deployment.”

The Nomad is an expendable design, allowing for execution of its mission without concerns for returning to the ship. This new upgrade retains the original affordable expendable design, but now has a recovery feature that allows operators to retrieve and reuse the Nomad vehicles multiple times in support of development, testing, training, and potentially future operational missions.

The Nomad’s launching system originally supported singular, non-pyrotechnic launches utilizing a CO2 ejection system from the launch and storage tube; a safer alternative to pyrotechnic launching systems according to Tayman.

The system now has multi-launch capability, deploying multiple Nomads in quick succession instead of singularly, while retaining the system’s safe CO2 ejection system design. Tayman states that this creates an equally safe launching mechanism that can support a higher quantity of Nomads.

The Nomad test on Coronado marks the first time this multi-launch and retrieval technology has been tested on a US Navy ship. “We’re excited to demonstrate this technology utilizing forward deployed fleet personnel and assets, testing one of our newest technologies on the Navy’s newest class of ships,” says co-principal investigator Aaron Kahn, a senior Guidance, Navigation, and Control researcher also with the VRS.

“During this test we were able to show multiple Nomads can safely operate in the same airspace and fly in a coordinated fashion. The ability to retrieve Nomads back onboard the ship opens up future opportunities for testing and fleet training with more expensive payloads – an aspect of affordability that can easily be overlooked” says Kahn.