DARPA wants urban, autonomous drone and robot swarms

DARPA, the Defense Department’s research and development arm, is looking to acquire the emerging technology needed to command a “swarm” of autonomous robots — typically small unmanned aircraft or ground systems — in an urban setting. The effort, called the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program, includes several “sprints” to try to develop “breakthrough” technologies in a shorter amount of time.

The agency invited companies to submit proposals by April 30 to participate in its second swarm sprint, focused on making the groups of drones and robots more autonomous, according to a news release. Organizations are asked to demonstrate innovative ideas for improving the platforms, algorithms, tactics or other technology needed to use a swarm of 50 air and ground robots to “isolate an urban objective” within an area of two city blocks during a 15-to-30 minute mission, according to the release…

The first contracts awarded as a part of the initial sprint went to Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories, SoarTech, Charles River Analytics, University of Maryland and Carnegie Mellon University. The first sprint is ongoing, Chung said. DARPA anticipates the sprints will last six-to-nine months.