Swarms of 250 Drones Will Support US Troops in Urban Combat

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program wants swarms of 250 collaborative autonomous systems providing critical capabilities to ground units in urban areas where challenges such as tall buildings, tight spaces, and limited sight lines constrain essential communications, sensing, maneuverability, and autonomous operations. Each of the five core sprints emphasizes one of the key OFFSET thrust areas – swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment, and physical testbed – to ultimately enable cross-cutting breakthroughs in swarm systems capabilities. DARPA is now running the fourth of the five sprints. This will be the virtual environment.

The fourth swarm sprint consists of two topics areas: developing synthetic technologies in the OFFSET virtual environments and identifying applications of artificial intelligence (AI) to discover and learn novel swarm tactics.

Developing Synthetic Technologies in Virtual Environments

Proposers will seek to develop and implement synthetic capabilities in simulation, representing potential future technologies, such as distributed “see-through-wall” sensors, passive swarm communications, or enhanced sensor/computing arrays, to enable and demonstrate novel swarm tactics. Proposed technologies could be near-term advances that are being prototyped in laboratories or far-term ideas that are primarily conceptual but physically grounded.

Artificial Intelligence for Novel Swarm Tactics

The researchers are leveraging artificial Intelligence for accelerating swarm tactics design. They will use the artificial intelligence frameworks via enhancements of the OFFSET virtual environments.

“With OFFSET, we are expanding the tactics available to warfighters, leveraging advances in autonomous systems to address complex challenges in urban environments,” says Timothy Chung, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “Exploring and developing swarm technologies in virtual environments today can yield insights and impact for real-world breakthrough capabilities tomorrow.”

DARPA also has awarded separate contracts for the third swarm sprint to Carnegie Mellon University and Soar Technologyn.

The third swarm sprint aims to augment the growing collection of swarm tactics in the OFFSET ecosystem, employing heterogeneous swarms of air and ground robots, and also to explore innovative technologies to enhance human-swarm teaming or how humans interact with autonomous swarms.


13 thoughts on “Swarms of 250 Drones Will Support US Troops in Urban Combat”

  1. Just don’t forget, there isn’t an electronic fence around population centers to let murderbots know those areas are out of bounds.

    May you live in interesting times.

  2. In D&D, which modeled them after Poul Anderson’s description in Three Hearts and Three Lions, they were large, green, and grotesque, while vulnerable only to fire, as they quickly regenerated from anything else.

    Here they are people that post without the least understanding of what they are talking about because conveying information, thoughts, or ideas are not what they are after.

  3. This ^

    It’s money and tech. The USA will love to be in an electronics and software race against ISIS, Taliban, and whatever the next group of weirdo killers turns out to be.

    These are groups who are opposed to modernity as a fundamental basis of their ideology. The ideal strategy is turning battles into a software competition and electronics purchasing race as opposed to how much violent combat the men can withstand and how many body bags the political structure can deal with.

    The USA can outspend a third world warlord by 1000:1 without it even appearing on the budget. But the warlord can accept 100 times the casualties. So making battles robots vs. robots is exactly the route to go for.

  4. First off, if its war, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

    You sure as hell wouldn’t want to be out there without these things if you could have them, especially if the other side might.

    But chances are the other side didn’t have the money to compete at this kind of thing, so my chances seem pretty good.

  5. They would have to negotiate my gauntlet of tiny, silent, almost invisible robot or remotely operated devices first…before they get to rounding corners towards my soft, less expendable, fleshy body….I hope.

  6. What makes you think a tiny, silent, almost invisible robot or remotely operated device (armed with something like a rapid fire shotgun) will not be coming around corners from the opposite direction towards your soft, less expendable and fleshy body?

  7. Why would I not want a tiny, silent, almost invisible robot or remotely operated device (armed with something like a rapid fire shotgun) going through doorways and around corners before my soft, less expendable, fleshy body does?

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