Participants wanted for UAV swarm-based tactics test bed

BALTIMORE, Md. Northrop Grumman Corp. -- in its role as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Phase 1 Swarm Systems Integrator for the Agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program -- is set to launch its first open-architecture test bed and is seeking participants to create and test their own swarm-based tactics on the platform. In this project, Northrop Grumman is teamed with Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI) and the Interactive Computing Experiences Research Cluster, directed by Dr. Joseph LaViola at the University of Central Florida.

The goal of the OFFSET program, say officials, 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 can support diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET's mission is to advance the integration of modern swarm tactics and use 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.”

As part of the OFFSET program, Northrop Grumman serves as a swarm systems integrator and is tasked with designing, developing, and deploying an open-based architecture for swarm technologies in both a game-based environment and a physical test bed. The OFFSET team is charged with coming up with tactics and technologies to test on the architecture and is also responsible for engaging a wider development and user audience through rapid technology-development exercises known as “swarm sprints.”

To this end, 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 these swarm sprints. Sprinters who join the program 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 conclude with live experiments with DARPA, the systems integrator team, and other sprinters.

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