Information operations

DARPA releases BAA for offensive swarming technologies

February 17, 2017 |

Jordana Mishory

Inside the Army – February 20, 2017

The Pentagon’s advanced research arm is seeking industry’s input to develop an architecture to enhance offensive swarming tactics with an eye for how this could help in challenging urban environments, according to a new broad agency announcement.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in its Feb. 15 BAA, states that the goal of the OFFensive Swarm Enabled Tactics, or OFFSET, program is to “advance and accelerate elements” of enabling swarm technologies, with a focus on swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming components.

“Swarm size (the number of elements in the swarm) has often been the prevailing (albeit limiting) consideration when identifying advantages of swarm technologies,” according to the announcement. “The underlying premise of the OFFSET program is that the potential of swarm systems has yet to be fully explored and realized.”

Tactics that look at collaborations between humans and the swarm, as well as “heterogeneity in the swarm’s composition,” can be a boon to efforts, DARPA wrote.

This technology could also be a potential game-changer for challenging urban environments, where missions “must often be conducted in areas where knowledge, access, and/or control of factors like infrastructure, supply chains, local conditions and potential threats are severely limited,” according to the announcement.

“OFFSET seeks revolutionary capabilities to assert and maintain superiority of the urban operating environment, both in the air and on the ground,” the announcement states.

DARPA is interested in using more than 250 collaborating systems, such as for an operation that takes place over eight city blocks for six hours.

“If successful, OFFSET will produce an advanced swarm system, comprising a demonstrated swarm software architecture with implementation of swarm tactics and advanced swarm interfaces; a physical swarm system testbed for substantive experimentation and operationalization; and a robust developer and user community for enduring engagement in the advancement of swarm system capabilities,” according to the announcement.

This program is designed to help develop both the “technological trade spaces of swarm systems design,” as well as “the scalability of manned-unmanned teaming constructs, test and evaluation for autonomous systems, and open system architectures for distributed, networked capabilities,” according to the announcement.

Abstracts are due March 1, and proposals for the swarm systems integrators are due April 3. DARPA intends to award up to two swarm systems integrators for a total of $14 million. The agency could also release calls for related swarm sprinter proposals within the next year. — Jordana Mishory


One thought on “DARPA releases BAA for offensive swarming technologies

  1. I like the idea that swarms can create their own line of sight networks which could make them invulnerable to hacking if you use direct laser based communications between the drones vs wifi, etc.

    Also I like the idea of swarming drones for border defense. Screw the fence. I like a persistent intelligence gathering network that is modular and can be upgraded over time. Musical drones flying around and landing at different charging stations. Not really a good foul weather solution, admittedly.

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