DARPA Drone Swarms and Airborne Drone Recovery

A DARPA drone swarm program for squads of infantry had successful tests. DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program at the Cassidy Combined Arms Collective Training Facility (CACTF) in Fort Campbell, Tennessee. Since 2017, OFFSET has held six field experiments with objectives of increasing complexity and difficulty.

The program envisions future small-unit infantry forces employing large-scale teams of unmanned air and/or ground robots to accomplish diverse missions in complex urban environments. OFFSET specifically focused on advancements in collaborative swarm autonomy and human-swarm teaming capabilities. The goal is to develop a set of “swarm tactics” that can be used to implement a swarm commander’s intent using algorithms that autonomous systems can understand.

DARPA validated most functions of a separate drone swarm program. DARPA is using airplane drone swarm deployment program and capped it off with the airborne recovery of a drone.

The team refurbished an X-61 vehicle and conducted a second flight within 24 working-hours. In addition, many hours of data were collected over four flights including air vehicle performance, aerodynamic interactions between the recovery bullet and GAV, and contact dynamics for airborne retrieval. Unfortunately, one GAV was destroyed during the flight tests.

Safe, effective, and reliable air recoveries promise to dramatically expand the range and potential uses of unmanned air vehicles in conflict situations. The GAVs can be equipped with a variety of sensors and other mission-specific payloads. They can also be launched from various types of military aircraft, keeping manned platforms safely beyond the range of adversary defenses. After air retrieval, the GAVs can be refurbished by ground crews to prepare them for another mission within 24 hours.

Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com