Tests high­light UAS’ abil­ity to col­lab­o­ra­tively sense and adapt

The Outpost - - Front Page - By Ta­batha Thomp­son

In a re­cent test se­ries at YPG, the De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency (DARPA) Col­lab­o­ra­tive Op­er­a­tions in De­nied En­vi­ron­ment (CODE) pro­gram demon­strated the abil­ity of CODE-equipped Un­manned Aerial Sys­tems (UAS) to adapt and re­spond to un­ex­pected threats in an anti-ac­cess area de­nial (A2AD) en­vi­ron­ment.

The UAS ef­fi­ciently shared in­for­ma­tion, co­op­er­a­tively planned and al­lo­cated mis­sion ob­jec­tives, made co­or­di­nated tac­ti­cal de­ci­sions, and col­lab­o­ra­tively re­acted to a dy­namic, high-threat en­vi­ron­ment with min­i­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The air ve­hi­cles ini­tially op­er­ated with su­per­vi­sory mis­sion com­man­der in­ter­ac­tion. When com­mu­ni­ca­tions were de­graded or de­nied, CODE ve­hi­cles re­tained mis­sion plan in­tent to ac­com­plish mis­sion ob­jec­tives with­out live hu­man di­rec­tion. The abil­ity for CODE-en­abled ve­hi­cles to in­ter­act when com­mu­ni­ca­tions are de­graded is an im­por­tant step to­ward the pro­gram goal to con­duct dy­namic, long-dis­tance en­gage­ments of highly mo­bile ground and mar­itime tar­gets in contested or de­nied bat­tlespace.

“The test se­ries ex­panded on pre­vi­ously demon­strated ap­proaches to low band­width col­lab­o­ra­tive sens­ing and on-board plan­ning. It demon­strated the abil­ity to op­er­ate in more chal­leng­ing sce­nar­ios, where both com­mu­ni­ca­tions and GPS nav­i­ga­tion were de­nied for ex­tended pe­ri­ods,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA pro­gram man­ager for CODE.

Dur­ing the three-week ground and flight test se­ries in a live/vir­tual/ con­struc­tive (LVC) en­vi­ron­ment, up to six live and 24 vir­tual UAS served as sur­ro­gate strike as­sets, re­ceiv­ing mis­sion ob­jec­tives from a hu­man mis­sion com­man­der. The sys­tems then au­tonomously col­lab­o­rated to nav­i­gate, search, lo­cal­ize, and en­gage both pre-planned and pop-up tar­gets pro­tected by a sim­u­lated In­te­grated Air De­fense Sys­tem (IADS) in com­mu­ni­ca­tions-and GPS-de­nied sce­nar­ios.

“The demon­strated be­hav­iors are the build­ing blocks for an au­tonomous team that can col­lab­o­rate and ad­just to mis­sion re­quire­ments and a chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” said Wierzbanowski.

The DARPA team also has ad­vanced the in­fra­struc­ture nec­es­sary to sup­port fur­ther devel­op­ment, in­te­gra­tion, and test­ing of CODE as it tran­si­tions to fu­ture au­tonomous sys­tems.

Achieve­ments in­clude in­cor­po­ra­tion of third-party au­ton­omy al­go­rithms into the cur­rent soft­ware build, the cre­ation of a gov­ern­ment repos­i­tory and lab test en­vi­ron­ment for the CODE al­go­rithms, and the suc­cess­ful demon­stra­tion of the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity Ap­plied Physics Lab­o­ra­tory White Force Net­work ca­pa­bil­ity to pro­vide con­struc­tive threats and ef­fects in an LVC test en­vi­ron­ment.

CODE’s scal­able ca­pa­bil­i­ties could greatly en­hance the sur­viv­abil­ity, flex­i­bil­ity, and ef­fec­tive­ness of ex­ist­ing air plat­forms, as well as re­duce the devel­op­ment times and costs of fu­ture sys­tems.

Fur­ther devel­op­ment of CODE and as­so­ci­ated in­fra­struc­ture will con­tinue un­der DARPA un­til the con­clu­sion of the pro­gram this spring, fol­lowed by full tran­si­tion of the CODE soft­ware repos­i­tory to Naval Air Sys­tems Com­mand.

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