Navy surveys industry for companies able to build unmanned aircraft and sensors for cold-weather polar use

July 12, 2023
UAVs must operate reliably from ships or land in the frigid polar regions for ice detection and mapping, domain awareness, and object recognition.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – U.S. Navy cold-weather experts are surveying industry to find companies able to build unmanned aircraft for surveillance and navigation in the harsh environmental conditions near Earth's polar regions.

Officials of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, Fla., have issued a sources-sought notice (N61331-23-SN-Q31) for the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Capable of Ice Detection and Mapping, Maritime Domain Awareness, and Logistics Support in arctic Environment project.

These unmanned aircraft must be able to operate reliably from ships or land sites in the frigid polar regions for ice detection and mapping, domain awareness, object recognition, payload delivery, GPS-limited navigation at high latitudes.

Unmanned aircraft must be able to launch and recover from air bases and surface ships on long-endurance in arctic winter temperatures, in fog, and in round-the-clock darkness. Extreme cold severely limits battery power available for UAV propulsion, navigation, and sensor payloads. This request for information is for planning purposes only.

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The arctic region is a strategic national security concern, and is extremely challenging because harsh and rapidly changing weather, austere infrastructure, and a general lack of operational experience. Current unmanned aircraft are limited in arctic environment -- particularly those deployed from small surface ships.

Of particular interest are cold-weather sensors and communication that are small and lightweight enough to operate aboard UAVs ranging in size from about 10 pounds to about 1,300 pounds for maritime domain awareness.

These cold-weather UAVs and sensor payloads should be able to assess weather conditions, detect treacherous ice, classify and map terrain, and recognize objects as small as a person in a 20-foot boat.

These UAVs should be able to launch and recover from unimproved surfaces and from surface ships with helicopter decks. Unmanned aircraft should be at technology readiness levels ranging from deployable prototypes to operational systems.

Related: Military eyes cold-weather technologies to enhance military operations at 60 below zero

Those with promising UAVs and sensors may be invited to a live demonstration in December 2023 at Oliktok Point, Alaska, with a follow-on demonstration in March 2024 at Pituffik Space Base, Greenland.

For these cold-weather UAVs and sensor payloads, Navy experts want to know about support equipment; operating clothing requirements; launch and recovery; system size, weight, and power consumption (SWaP); sensor payload types; UAV performance; operational duration; iced detection; icing and de-icing capability; autonomous operation capability, teaming capability, and swarming capability; noise; and cost.

Companies interested should email the Navy's Brandon Hayes at [email protected] and Jonathan Faranda at [email protected], with a copy to [email protected], no later than 11 Aug. 2023.

More information is online at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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