A competition document from the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is seeking proposals for innovative approaches to developing and evaluating the military utility of a drone swarm.
DASA wants low-cost, small Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) to operate as a collaborative mission capability as part of military missions.
£2.5m has been made available to fund one or more swarming UAS Integrated Concept Evaluations to accelerate from a minimum of Technology Readiness Level 3 or 4 to TRL 6 or 7.
The competition document ‘Many Drones Make Light Work’, described how UAS are currently in widespread use with a range of defence and security users around the world but the current systems require at least one operator to either directly pilot the aircraft or to closely manage the mission.
DASA thinks that the ability to employ a swarm of UAS, considered to be 10 to 20 aircraft in the context of this competition, operating in a co-ordinated and closely coupled fashion to achieve a common goal could be of great benefit to defence.
This could support lower operating costs, increased system efficiency and effectiveness as well as increased overall system resilience.
Phase 1 of the ‘Many Drones Make Light Work’ campaign was launched in August 2016 and sought innovative proof-of-concept proposals.
Over 140 proposals were received from industry and academia, which resulted in 13 Phase 1 contracts being issued. These Phase 1 contracts were completed in July 2017.
Phase 2 of the campaign was based on proposals from the Phase 1 contracts. Phase 2 was focused on further developing and proving the effectiveness of specific swarming technology aspects as well as swarming enablers. Nine Phase 2 proposals were contracted, due to be completed in October 2018.
Now in phase 3, the campaign is seeking to further develop and integrate technologies with the objective of demonstrating a swarming UAS capability, through the flight evaluation.
DASA says phase 3 should be considered an Integrated Concept Evaluation and is therefore open to the wider community to seek a complete technology base to deliver an integrated capability.
Proposals should describe a programme of work that covers development of a suitable system architecture, further development and incremental testing leading to an evaluation of the complete system.
The technology should be at least TRL 3 or 4 at the start of the competition and achieve TRL 6 or 7 by the end of Phase 3.
The call for proposals will close at midday on November 28.