Military researchers ask industry to enhance unmanned vehicle swarms for enemy reconnaissance and attack

Jan. 18, 2023
AMASS seeks to develop measures to counteract enemy counter-anti-access and -area-denial technologies by using a common command-and-control language.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry to develop the ability dynamically to control swarms of unmanned autonomous vehicles to help penetrate sensitive enemy military areas.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., have issued a broad agency announcement (HR001123S0010) for the Autonomous Multi-Domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms (AMASS) project.

AMASS seeks to develop theater-level measures to counteract enemy counter-anti-access and -area-denial technologies by using a common command-and-control language for theater-level counter-anti-access / area denial (A2/AD) capabilities.

The $78 million project will go to one contractor, which will develop ways to command unmanned autonomous swarms using a common command language for reconnaissance and attack of protected enemy areas.

Related: Gremlin drone swarms to overwhelm enemy defenses with reconnaissance and electronic warfare UAVs

Researchers say unmanned aircraft, surface vessels, and ground vehicles have perhaps the best change of operating inside enemy protected areas by taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine autonomy to enable unmanned vehicles to operate in enemy territory safely and undetected using a distributed command system.

AMASS will build on previous research to create a swarms-of-swarms system that simultaneously will threaten high-valued enemy assets, introduce intolerable cost-exchanges, and enable operations within enemy secure areas.

Affordable unmanned swarms with diverse sensors and weapons would be pre-positioned forward and launched remotely, providing rapid response and adaptability without putting human operators of ships, aircraft, and land vehicles at risk.

Related: Navy developing swarms of cooperating drones to launch overwhelming attacks

AMASS will capitalize on technologies developed for DARPA’s System-of-Systems Enhanced Small Unit (SESU) program, which demonstrated that many heterogeneous autonomous swarms present a significant dilemma to enemy defenses.

SESU developed technologies to plan and carry-out counter-anti-access missions with swarms; swarm behavior software that enables the swarms to carry-out missions independently and adapt to change; communications, navigation, and weapons payloads; and modeling and simulation.

Central to the AMASS program is the ability to plan and carry-out missions that use thousands of autonomous vehicles to damage or destroy enemy anti-access capabilities.

Related: DARPA moves forward on plan to develop swarms of cooperating drones

To facilitate seamless operations of disparate swarms, AMASS will develop a common swarm language called the Swarms-of-Swarms Protocol (SOSP) to enable swarms running different autonomy software to interact with the AMASS command system.

The SOSP language will enable the AMASS command system to request services, negotiate, and exchange information with available swarms. The language will help control several heterogeneous swarms with different capabilities. AMASS will adapt to new threats and theaters of operation using open software and hardware interfaces that can be modified rapidly.

Companies interested should respond no later than 10 Feb. 2023. Email questions or concerns to DARPA at [email protected]. More information is online at

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