Little Horned Owl

Intelligence Value

The need for increasingly sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence purposes requires a maturation of the technology to include the need for quiet UAVs. The Little Horned Owl program is developing ultra-quiet mini UAVs (defined as having a take-off weight of 55 pounds or less) to further enable critical intelligence and military missions.


Mini-UAVs are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in everyday life for delivering packages, conducting inspections, surveying land, and performing other functions in difficult-to-reach locations. Civilian, military, and intelligence applications for mini-UAVs require sophisticated designs that enable acoustically quiet operation. The LHO program seeks to develop and validate UAVs that can both quietly operate and meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defined requirements for small UAV operations. Enabling technologies for an integrated mini-UAV include: aircraft shaping to reduce acoustic emissions, electrically-driven ducted fans, and quiet flight control. LHO performers are developing prototype mini-UAVs that can be tailored for mission-specific flight requirements and that meet or exceed program metrics for acoustic threshold and FAA required flight profiles for operation in U.S. airspace.

Two different designs have been developed and will be available for transition to government users. Each design has a flight radius of 30 miles with 30 minutes time-on- station while carrying a payload of 10 pounds. The LHO program began in April 2018 and will conclude in 2023.



Related Publications

To access LHO program-related publications, please visit Google Scholar.

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Contact Information

Program Manager

Main Office

Related Program(s)


Broad Agency Announcement (BAA)

Link(s) to BAA

Solicitation Status


Program Summary

Testing and Evaluation Partners

  • U.S. Air Force Research Lab
  • U.S. Air Force Test Center Aero-acoustic Research Complex at White Sands Missile Range 
  • U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center 
  • U.S. Naval Air Warfare Weapons Division-China Lake

Prime Performers

  • Boeing