Asymmetric Dialogue

DARPA is seeking new ideas for how drones can be used in combat


While single-use drones are nothing new to the military, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is getting serious about using groups of drones as a way to complement traditional ground forces. DARPA’s Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics has announced the beginning of its second sprint, where it rapidly solicits new ideas based a single idea. This sprint’s theme will focus on autonomy.
The military is seeking ideas on how to improve its drone technology rather that be in the area of sensors, controls or propulsion. Currently, DARPA is aiming to create teams of 50 air and ground robots to complement traditional ground troops in doing battle in urban environments. The drones will need to be able to operate within an area of two-square blocks on missions lasting from 15 to 30 minutes.
The specific goals of these drone units will vary from mission to mission, but will be based around the concept of isolating objectives within urban environment. These goals can include information gathering, creating maps of urban environments, and defending against or identifying vulnerabilities.
“As operations in urban environments continue to evolve, our warfighters need advanced capabilities to keep up with the ever-changing complexity of the urban scenario,” said DARPA’s Timothy Chung. “The focus on enhancing autonomy in operational contexts will further advance future swarming capabilities allowing the warfighter to outmaneuver our adversaries in these complex urban environments.”
While the aforementioned guidelines are a bit vague, they should provide a starting point for companies to determine rather or not their technology is going to be of use to the armed forces. The program’s submission guidelines are available on DARPA’s website.
While the military applications are certainly a growing area, drones, in general, have seen a lot of expansion in commercial areas. In Puerto Rico, power companies are making use of drones to help restore the island’s damaged power grid while keeping their workers safe.
Walmart recently announced that it would be partnering with drone manufacturers to provide drones to its partner farms to help them better manage their fields. The company helps this will make their partner farms more productive and ensure low prices for consumers.