The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a special notice inviting interested companies to participate in the select Phase I of its collaborative operations in denied environment (CODE) programme.
CODE programme aims to help the US forces operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in denied or contested airspace by developing algorithms and software that would extend the mission capabilities of such platforms well beyond the current state-of-the-art.
Specifically, the programme seeks to enable a group of UAS to find targets and engage them as appropriate under established rules of engagement.
It will also allow the UAS to use nearby CODE-enabled systems with minimal supervision, and adapt to situations due to attrition of friendly forces or the emergence of unanticipated threats under the command of a single human mission supervisor.
DARPA programme manager Jean-Charles Lede said: "Just as wolves hunt in coordinated packs with minimal communication, multiple CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft would collaborate to find, track, identify, and engage targets, all under the command of a single human mission supervisor.
"Further, CODE aims to decrease the reliance of these systems on high-bandwidth communication and deep crew bench, while expanding the potential spectrum of missions through combinations of assets, all at lower overall costs of operation.
"These capabilities would greatly enhance survivability and effectiveness of existing air platforms in denied environments."
By enabling a single operator to simultaneously command and control six or more unmanned vehicles, CODE is expected to help commanders mix and match different UAS with specific capabilities that suit individual missions. This is instead of relying on a single system that integrates all needed capabilities but whose loss would be potentially catastrophic.
The existing unmanned systems require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operatorm, as well as a large number of analysts through telemetry, severely limiting the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations.
DARPA plans to conduct an open architecture meeting and a technology interchange meeting in March, with participants having capabilities, methodologies, and approaches that are related to CODE research and focused on revolutionary approaches to UAS, autonomy, and collaborative operations.
While the first meeting would review the requirements and approaches for making the CODE open architecture compatible with communication-constrained, distributed, highly autonomous collaborative systems, the second will see participants presenting technologies for potential incorporation into the demonstration planned for second and third phases of the programme.
Image: CODE programme aims to enable one person to simultaneously command and control six or more unmanned aerial vehicles. Photo: courtesy of DARPA.