DARPA UAVs Would Be Fast, Light, And Fly Themselves

DARPA UAVs Would Be Fast, Light, And Fly Themselves

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Joe Gould, writing on the January 2, 2015 website — DefenseNews.com — begins by writing that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is the Pentagon’s advanced research and development entity — “wants to help drones fly the crowded skies — using a new class of algorithms.” DARPA announced on December 23, 2014, that “it is seeking an algorithm, or software “brain,” aimed at high-speed, aerial navigation in cluttered environments as part of a Fast, Lightweight Autonomy Program (FLA).”

“Birds and flying insects maneuver easily at high speeds, near obstacles,” according to DARPA’s solicitation notes. “The FLA Program asks the question: “How can autonomous flying robotic systems achieve similar, high-speed performance?”

Mr. Gould notes that “DARPA envisions such a system performing reconnaissance missions in areas previously considered denied, such as a protected, or structurally damaged building. But, such technology could have applications off the battlefield,” he adds. “The solicitation came a month after the FAA report leaked that nearly 200 safety incidents involving commercial drones and commercial aircraft — and, days ahead of the FAA’s safety campaign for the holiday hot seller.”

“DARPA’s technology would actually take the pilot out of the equation,” Mr. Gould claims. “Modeled after the capabilities of a bird, these drones — in final demonstration would have to fly for ten minutes, travel at 45mph, fly as far as a kilometer, use a 20-watt computer; and, use no communications after the initial “go” command. DARPA is offering $5.5M in research funding. Phase I would be from mid-2015, to mid-2017, and is focused on an outdoor slalom course, the inside of a warehouse, and indoor offices — before wrapping up at the end of 2018. Phase II would tackle doors and windows, the bane of real birds everywhere.”

Drone warfare is here and coming in a much larger and profound way — whether we like it or not. Swarms, suicide drones, hijack drones, WMD drones, dog-fighting/aerial combat drones, and drones that have warheads that activate based on the intended target are all probably in the not too distant future. It is a lot cheaper for the adversary to steal the blueprints for these weapons and build them — as opposed to a multi-billion dollar fighter. V/R, RCP

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