DARPA seeks drone escort for military truck convoys to protect against enemy drones

DARPA is asking for industry’s help in developing a agile and mobile drone-defense system that can defeat a raid of self-guided, small unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that are attacking an important moving target like a high-value convoy.

The potential $63 million Mobile force protection project seeks ways to defend against not only today’s radio-controlled and GPS-guided weaponized UAS, but also against future UAS that navigate by visual means in large groups to gather intelligence and coordinate attacks against one or more high-value moving targets.

Of particular interest is the ability to counter relatively small fixed-wing or helicopter UAS that weigh less than 200 pounds apiece, DARPA officials say. An MFP system must be able to integrate new approaches and technologies quickly, and work on ground vehicles, surface vessels, and aircraft.

The program’s first phase will develop enabling technologies. If viable, the program will move to a second and third phase that will culminate in a prototype system demonstration. This solicitation is only for the program’s first phase, which should be worth $3 million for each of several contractors.

The MFP program will consist of three phases, each culminating in an open-air demonstration against continuously more sophisticated threats and challenging scenarios.

An MFP system could include distributed and elevated sensors and effectors networked to form a fused air surveillance picture, be controlled for fast decisive action, and provide several low-risk UAS-neutralization options.

A top-level system MFP architecture would boil down to three steps; sense, decide, and then act using a neutralization web that integrates existing and emerging sensors through a fusion engine.

To demonstrate the system, DARPA experts will use the U.S. Army Maneuver Aviation and Fires Integration Application (MAFIA) as the backbone operating system to enable a system plug-and-play environment, and DARPA will consider only system prototypes that incorporate a MAFIA architecture.

SOURCE – DARPA, Intelligent Aerospace