Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have been awarded Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency contracts to develop drone swarms for urban combat environments.

DARPA’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics, or OFFSET, program, aims to equip small infantry units with swarms of 250 or more robotic aircraft and ground vehicles. Under the Phase I research contracts, Raytheon BBN Technologies and Northrop Grumman will lead teams to develop easily deployed and monitored platforms to bolster forces in urban canyons.

“Each team will serve as a swarm systems integrator tasked with designing, developing and deploying an open architecture for swarm technologies in physical and virtual environments,” said a DARPA news release.

“Each system would include an extensible game-based architecture to enable design and integration of swarm tactics, a swarm tactics exchange to foster community interaction, immersive interfaces for collaboration among teams of humans and swarm systems, and a physical testbed to validate developed capabilities.”

In addition, every six months DARPA will invite “sprinters,” or third parties, to work with the agency and the two contractor teams. The sprinters will focus on swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment and physical testbed.

The current sprint will address the creation of tactics “for the first core sprint now. The focus of this effort is the generation of swarm tactics for a mixed swarm of 50 air and ground robots to isolate an urban objective within an area of two square city blocks over a mission duration of 15 to 30 minutes. Operationally relevant tactics to achieve that mission include performing reconnaissance, identifying ingress and egress points, and establishing a perimeter around an area of operation.”