Under DARPA’s Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, Raytheon BBN Technologies is developing technology to direct and control swarms of small, autonomous air and ground vehicles. The technology includes:
a visual interface that allows «drag and drop» creation and manipulation of drone tactics;
a game-based simulator to evaluate those tactics;
a physical swarm testbed to perform live tactics evaluations.
«Operators use speech or gestures to control the swarm. This is a tremendous advantage during operations», said Shane Clark, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and principal investigator on the program. «The system provides sensor feeds and mission status indicators for complete situational awareness».
The flexible, scalable programming software and simulation environment means users can coordinate drone behaviors in teams composed of different vehicle types that use various sensors.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is inviting additional organizations to participate in OFFSET as «sprinters» through an open Broad Agency Announcement. Sprinters can create their own novel swarm tactics and the Raytheon BBN team will work with them to evaluate the tactics in simulation, and possibly field them for live trials.
In 2016, Raytheon, as part of the Office of Naval Research Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) program, conducted demonstrations that successfully netted together 30 Coyote Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in a swarm. Raytheon BBN Technologies is a wholly owned subsidiary of Raytheon Company.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) selected Northrop Grumman Corporation as a Phase 1 Swarm Systems Integrator for the Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. As part of the program, Northrop Grumman will launch its first open architecture test bed and is seeking participants to create and test their own swarm-based tactics on the platform. Northrop Grumman is teamed with Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI) and the Interactive Computing Experiences Research Cluster, directed by Doctor Joseph LaViola at the University of Central Florida.
As part of the DARPA OFFSET program, Northrop Grumman serves as a swarm systems integrator, tasked with designing, developing and deploying a swarm-system, open-based architecture for swarm technologies in both a game-based environment and physical test bed. The team has been tasked to produce tactics and technologies to test on the architecture and is responsible for engaging a wider development and user audience through rapid technology-development exercises known as «swarm sprints».
Approximately every six months, DARPA plans to solicit proposals from potential “sprinters” in one of five thrust areas: swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment and physical test bed. Participants from academia, small business and large corporations are invited to join in these swarm sprints. Sprinters will work with the integration team to create and test their own novel swarm tactics within the test bed environment. The end of each sprint will coincide with live physical test experiments with DARPA, the systems integrator team and other sprinters.
The goal of the OFFSET program is to provide small-unit infantry forces with small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) or small Unmanned Ground Systems (UGSs) in swarms of 250 or more robots that support diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET seeks to advance the integration of modern swarm tactics and leverage emerging technologies in swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming.
«Cognitive autonomy has the potential to transform all defense and security systems. OFFSET will explore a variety of applications in relevant mission scenarios», said Vern Boyle, vice president, advanced technologies, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems. «We are applying cutting-edge technologies in robotics, robot autonomy, machine learning and swarm control to ultimately enhance our contributions to the warfighter».