DARPA completes second phase of swarming demo

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has completed the second phase of its collaborative control technology for unmanned air systems demonstration, the next step in an effort to orchestrate swarms of legacy UAS with the hand of a single human operator.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon collaborated with six smaller companies on the phase 2 demonstration for Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE), flying RQ-23 Tigersharks modified with CODE hardware and open architecture software, according to an 8 January DARPA release. Phase 2 built on earlier work that developed algorithms to control the UAS in environments with limited communication and controlled the aircraft’s flight direction, altitude, speed and sensors.

DARPA has selected Raytheon to complete development for CODE software in phase 3 test, which will add more UAS to the demonstration and increase the complexity of autonomous behaviors, according to Jean-Charles Ledé, CODE programme manager.

CODE fits in with DARPA’s larger vision of swarming UAVs controlled by a single source. Last year, air force officials teased an “Ender’s Game” concept that would control several UAVs with the wave of the hand. DARPA later solidified that idea with a broad agency announcement for its OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) programme, which called for techniques such as gaming leaderboards that would encourage users to frequently submit high quality swarm tactics that would be incorporated into software.