Ten companies to develop helicopter-launched drones for U.S. Army

Ten companies have been awarded contracts by the U.S. Army to build drones and associated systems that will be launched from current and future military helicopters.

The 10 Air Launched Effects (ALE) awards total $29.75 million and cover the air vehicle, mission systems, and payloads for small drones that will be launched from legacy helicopters and Future Vertical Lift (FVL) aircraft like the Future Attack Reconnaisance Aircraft (FARA).

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In May the Army demonstrated the proof of concept of an air-launched drone by releasing an ALTIUS unmanned system from a Black Hawk. A main concern was whether the small aircraft could survive the helicopter’s rotor downwash.

An Area-I Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System, or ALTIUS, is launched from a UH-60 Black Hawk at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, March 4 where the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center led a demonstration that highlighted the forward air launch of the ALTIUS. Yuma Proving Ground Photo

The awards were made using other transaction authorities (OTA), which allow the Army’s FVL Cross-Functional Team (CFT) and other contracting offices to spend money on rapid prototyping efforts aimed at modernizing the force and its equipment.

“We have lots of flexibility inside the OTA that allows us to do many things once these technologies are proven and ready to be integrated,” said Joseph Giunta, executive director for U.S. Army Contracting Command-Redstone. “We’ve put a lot of tools in place to allow the CFT and PEO to take advantage of the flexibility, reduction in risk and time through this contracting strategy. We’re excited to have that in place and to support our mission partners on an accelerated schedule.”

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Air Launched Effects are a component of Army aviation’s advanced teaming capability to penetrate, disintegrate, and exploit threat A2/AD, mid-tier Integrated Air Defense Systems and long- to medium-range enemy fire. These autonomous air vehicle agreement awards are part of FARA.

Three projects for ALE air vehicle were awarded to Alliant Techsystems Operations, Raytheon and Area-I. Three Projects for ALE mission systems were awarded to L3 Technologies, Rockwell Collins and Aurora Flight Services Corp. Additionally, four projects for ALE payloads were awarded to Leonardo Electronics U.S., Technology Service Corporation, Raytheon and Alliant Techsystems.

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