DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program aims to remove limitations around the number of swarming drones and enable more complex operations with new algorithms and software for existing unmanned aircraft that would extend mission capabilities and improve U.S. forces’ ability to conduct operations in denied or contested airspace. CODE researchers seek to create a modular software architecture beyond the current state of the art that is resilient to bandwidth limitations and communications disruptions yet compatible with existing standards and amenable to affordable retrofit into existing platforms.
DARPA’s wantes drones to conduct dynamic, long-distance engagements of highly mobile ground and maritime targets in denied or contested electromagnetic airspace, all while reducing required communication bandwidth and cognitive burden on human supervisors.
They have identified about 20 autonomous behaviors that would greatly increase the mission capabilities of our legacy UASs and enable them to perform complex missions in denied or contested environments in which communications, navigation, and other critical elements of the targeting chain are compromised. We have also made excellent progress in the human-system interface and open-architecture framework.
In Phase 2—DARPA hopes to demonstrate basic autonomous behaviors for the two drones—one from Lockheed and another from Raytheon—during a live flight test. Virtual unmanned aircraft would augment those two aircraft for the purposes of the test.
In phase 3, one team would be selected to test their CODE capability using up to six live vehicles cooperating among themselves—plus additional simulated vehicles. One person would have to command the entire swarm by themselves while performing a complex mission. That mission would—at a minimum—include target search, identification and engagement against an active and unpredictable adversary.