Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have been awarded contracts by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the next phase of a project to develop collaborative control technology for unmanned air systems.
Under the Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) programme, the two prime contractors will build on previous work to develop algorithms that will allow a single operator to control multiple UAS, and specifically in environments where communications are limited.
There is a desire to operate UAS in such contested environments, DARPA says, which currently requires constant and dedicated control. A solicitation for the programme was launched in January 2015, followed by a phase 1 definition element, and now a phase 2 demonstration stage using two vehicles.
“During phase 1, we successfully demonstrated, in simulation, the potential value of collaborative autonomy among UAS at the tactical edge, and worked with our performers to draft transition plans for possible future operational systems,” Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA programme manager, says.
Between the two teams, 20 “autonomous behaviours” were identified. These are deemed to be important in increasing the capabilities of currently operated UAS.
“During phase 2, DARPA plans to implement an initial subset of the behaviours within each of the two open architectures and use those architectures to conduct live flight tests with one or two live UAS augmented with several virtual aircraft,” it adds.
If successful, the agency could introduce a third phase, which would test up to six vehicles controlled by one operator in the same scenario.
In addition to the two prime contractors, another six companies that had been awarded phase 1 contracts will work with Lockheed and Raytheon on supporting technologies. These are: Daniel H Wagner Associates, Scientific Systems Company, Smart Information Flow Technologies, Soar Technology, SRI International and Vencore Labs.