The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said it successfully demonstrated the ability of drone swarms to operate in the face of enemy jamming.
DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program seeks to develop sophisticated software to enable groups of existing unmanned systems to work together, under a single person’s control, as they conduct operations in denied or contested airspace. The goal is for CODE’s human operator to monitor the swarm without micromanaging it, and instead to allow the autonomous drones to improvise and adjust as they pursue their mission.
The program manager has compared CODE technology to wolves hunting in coordinated packs.
DARPA tested the technology during a recent three-week series of exercises at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The CODE systems, which included as many as six live and 24 virtual drones, collaborated to navigate, search, and engage both pre-planned and pop-up targets. According to a Nov. 19 release from the agency, the CODE-equipped systems demonstrated an ability to “adapt and respond to unexpected threats in an anti-access area denial environment.” This included preventing communications and GPS signals.
When communications were degraded or denied, CODE vehicles were able to maintain their mission plan and accomplish mission objectives without direction from humans, the agency said.
“The test series expanded on previously demonstrated approaches to low bandwidth collaborative sensing and on-board planning. It demonstrated the ability to operate in more challenging scenarios, where both communications and GPS navigation were denied for extended periods,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager for CODE.
The CODE program will continue under DARPA until it’s anticipated conclusion in spring 2019.
The program’s software repository will then be transitioned to the Naval Air Systems Command.