US military seeks collaborators to create next-generation UAVs

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic (SSC Atlantic) are calling on innovators to collaborate on the UAVForge Challenge.

The UAVForge challenge will use so-called crowdsourcing to build small UAVs through an exchange of ideas and design practices.

The goal is to build and test a user-intuitive, backpack-portable UAV that can quietly fly in and out of critical environments to conduct sustained surveillance for up to three hours.

‘The UAVForge crowd-sourced approach seeks to capture and mature novel ideas and systems integration methods from communities outside the traditional DoD acquisition process,’ said Jim McCormick, DARPA programme manager.

According to DARPA, teams will participate in a series of peer-reviewed milestones where participant rating will identify the top-10 teams that advance to the UAVForge Fly-Off Competition. During the competition, vehicles will be tested in a simulated high-stress surveillance mission.

‘This is a fascinating challenge and the solution space is wide open,’ said McCormick. ‘We’re excited to see what innovative ideas emerge, so we’re trying to give individuals and teams lots of time to develop their concepts prior to the initial design submission date planned for late this fall.’

The winning team will be awarded $100,000 and the opportunity to showcase its design in an overseas military exercise.

Additionally, the winning team will work with a UAV manufacturer to produce a limited quantity of systems for future experimentation.

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