In the future of urban warfare, swarms of autonomous drones and ground vehicles will win battles before they even begin.
DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program recently tested a swarm of 250 unmanned vehicles in a mock city at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Mississippi.
The test simulates an urban raid. Researchers can then study how swarm tech can provide valuable insights to troops in the field well before hostilities begin.
Most soldiers will tell you urban campaigns are the most harrowing, with jutting buildings and zig-zagging streets ruining sight lines and tight spaces limiting battle options. Danger is literally just around every corner.
Descending on the town-like test site, the swarm of rotor-drones and small trucks – known as Swarm Systems Integrator teams – gather valuable data about the urban-scape by locating data-rich bar codes affixed to the building. The tags represented items of interest or hazards troops might find in a city.
A DARPA statement explains:
“As the swarm relayed information acquired from the tags, human swarm tacticians adaptively employed various swarm tactics their teams had developed to isolate and secure the building(s) containing the identified items. Concurrently, separate subswarms also were often tasked to maintain situational awareness and continue observation of the surrounding environment.”
OFFSET includes Swarm System Integrators and Swarm Sprinters.
Produced by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon BBN, Swarm System Integrators create OFFSET architectures, interfaces, and their respective Swarm Tactics Exchanges, which “houses tools to help performers design swarm tactics by composing collective behaviors, swarm algorithms, and existing swarm tactics.”
Swarm Sprinters perform focused tasks and deliver additional technologies to merge with system integrators.
“It has been fascinating to watch the Swarm Sprinters, who may not have been previously exposed to realistic operational settings, begin to understand why it’s so difficult to operate in dense, urban environments,” says Timothy Chung, the OFFSET program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO). “The Swarm Sprinters brought a number of novel technologies they have developed over the last 6-9 months and successfully integrated and tested their developments on physical platforms in real-world environments, which was exciting to see.”
Jason is a longstanding contributor to DroneLife with an avid interest in all things tech. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; police, fire, and search and rescue.
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