Dynamic sensor processing for unmanned vehicles and C4ISR is aim of DARPA Composable Embedded Software

July 10, 2019
Aim is composing software processing dynamically to deal with changing situations, missions, or environmental states during military operations.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry to create the capability of composing software processing chains dynamically to deal with changing or unexpected situations, mission requirements, or environmental states during military operations.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a small-business solicitation (HR001119S0035-08) on Tuesday for the Composable Embedded Software project.

The expanding availability of unmanned sensor platforms, forward processing capability, the lack of guaranteed communications for reach-back processing, and the increase in manned and unmanned teaming require a deployed compute management environment, DARPA researchers explain.

Manned and unmanned teams increasingly are being deployed to capitalize on the growth in sensor assets while maintaining the adaptivity of experienced human operators.

Yet while data collection assets are increasing, today's processing tools do not have sufficient reasoning to adapt to new and changing information. Most of these tools, in fact, have narrow application so their use in missions require anticipation of targets, behaviors, and environment.

Related: Army looks to four companies for sensor-processing software to uncover terrorist networks

This is particularly the case for machine learning models for sensors, DARPA officials say. New tools are necessary to enable the forward operator to augment and tune sensor processing and planning tools.

Currently, software composability is limited to virtual machines and various containerization tools, leaving developers to define and manage provisioning, cross-container communications, data management, and deployment. This process is time consuming and requires specialized expertise, making in-mission and rapid response changes impossible.

DARPA defines a composable software environment to include work flow or processing chain design; data, process and state migration; automatic formation of ad-hoc networks using available communication equipment; containerization of processes; and automatic provisioning of hardware collection, processing, and storage resources.

To participate, proposers must already have demonstrated the feasibility of a distributed computing environment that runs on several processing platforms and communicates over wireless links.

DARPA wants industry to develop a distributed processing environment that supports the rapid specification and deployment of software for sensor planning, sensor processing, and sensor fusion across networked collection and processing.

Related: Raytheon to establish dedicated software team for unmanned aircraft multi-spectral targeting sensors

This environment should manage the provisioning of collection, processing, storage, and communications to offload these management tasks from the user.

The environment should maintain awareness of the processing load, power usage, communications bandwidth availability, and data storage, and manage communications between processes.

Data collection platforms have different sensors that require the data management framework to be aware of which processes are appropriate for use with various platforms.

The data management framework should be able to move data, processes, and process state between nodes. Users will define process streams with available software, and set processing priorities while the data management framework provides collection and processing status to the user.

The system needs to provide human user interface and software application programming interfaces for work flow design and process containerization for new and legacy software.

Related: DARPA chooses four companies to design software-reconfigurable multi-function imaging sensors

To demonstrate the system capability, DARPA will test the environment in a manned and unmanned mission where new processing workflows will be designed and deployed before and during the mission.

The demonstration requires transfer of sensor processes, data, and state between platforms to maintain persistence of processing state even when persistence of sensing platforms change. The software must provide sensor planning and processing capability sufficient to demonstrate composability.

The U.S. Army, Marine Corps, and Special Forces are likely to provide the first customers for this new software and computing capability for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. Potential commercial uses would be monitoring and physical security for large areas or for hazardous or difficult-to-reach-areas.

Companies interested should submit full proposals online no later than 23 Aug. 2019 at https://sbir.defensebusiness.org/user/login.

Email questions or concerns by 9 Aug. 2019 at [email protected]. More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/HR001119S0035-08/listing.html.

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