DARPA to develop swarming unmanned vehicles for better military reconnaissance

U.S. military researchers want to work with industry to develop ways to swarm unmanned vehicles inside cities and towns to enhance reconnaissance capabilities and identify threats to U.S. and allied military forces from standoff ranges.

Feb 1st, 2017
1701mae News Drones

ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. military researchers want to work with industry to develop ways to swarm unmanned vehicles inside cities and towns to enhance reconnaissance capabilities and identify threats to U.S. and allied military forces from standoff ranges.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., unveiled the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, focused on a game-based open architecture to develop and test swarm tactics for specially designed swarming unmanned systems in urban operations.

DARPA researchers hope that such swarm systems also may lead to new enabling technologies for swarming unmanned vehicles, such as distributed perception, robust and resilient communications, dispersed computing and analytics, and adaptive collective behaviors, DARPA officials say.

DARPA is trying to enable unmanned aerial vehicles to work together as teams and display swarming behavior.

Urban environments are complex, dynamic, and unpredictable, and present a major challenge in modern security and civil operations, researchers explain. Benefits, however, may be worth dealing with the complexity when swarming unmanned vehicles work with human ground personnel, experts say.

Swarming unmanned vehicles may increase standoff distances for detection and identification of potential dangers, offer increased safety and surveillance, and enhance intelligence preparation of the battlespace, DARPA officials say.

The program will advance two key areas to increase the effectiveness of small-unit combat forces operating in the urban environment: swarm autonomy for agile, complex, collective behaviors for intelligent movement, decisions, and interactions with the environment; and human-swarm teaming, enabling swarm commanders to infer, interact with, and influence swarm system behaviors.

The project also seeks to enhance understanding of key enabling technologies for unmanned swarm tactics with a test bed game environment that will help researchers experiment with new and evolving swarm tactics.

Emphasis will be on open software and systems architectures, game software design and game-based community development, immersive interactive technologies, and robotic systems integration and algorithm development for distributed robotics.

A formal solicitation for the DARPA OFFSET program (DARPA-SN-17-02) is expected as early as this month, but was not yet available at press time. Virtually all DARPA contract opportunities are listed online at www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/opportunities.

E-mail questions or concerns to the DARPA OFFSET program manager, Timothy Chung, at DARPA-SN-17-02@darpa.mil.

More information is online at www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-SN-17-02/listing.html.

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