Army wants autonomous UAS for GPS-denied environments

Researchers are looking for game-changing sensing technologies that could work for a variety of unmanned vehicles.

The Pentagon has been pushing for the development of autonomous unmanned vehicles for a while. Now, it wants them to operate autonomously even when GPS signals are degraded.

The Army this week issued a sources sought notice looking for the latest autonomous technologies for its Autonomous Unmanned Systems Teaming and Collaboration In GPS Denied Environments program, which goes by the shortened acronym AUSTC.

The Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center plans to use a think-tank and skunk-works approach (the latter a reference to Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs) to “identify, invest, mature, and transition revolutionary/game-changing autonomous unmanned sensing technologies.”

The notice says that they technologies developed for AUSTC could be used a variety of unmanned systems, including small UAS, unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles.

ARDEC’s objectives include analysis and assessments, technology demonstration efforts to determine technical risks, and system integration requirements of existing and previously developed autonomous UAS. Ultimately, the program wants to expand the capabilities of GPS-denied autonomous sensing and collaborating architectures.   

The notice makes clear that precision mapping, location, target detection, tracking and collaboration capabilities that work where GPS signals are denied are a requirement for today autonomous UAS sensing technologies, though they also open a pathway for new methods of sensing in existing and emerging threats.   

The notice also says that a contractual system prototype is necessary to enable the design, development, concept testing, components and technologies. “The purpose of this market research is to provide that contractual vehicle,” the notice states.   

Current sensitive target site exploration mission capabilities are inaccurate, heavy and expensive, the notice says, which is why such technologies are necessary for the Army and DOD at large.  Furthermore, current systems that are not autonomous should be.   

The technologies developed under the AUSTC program should solve current issues concerning autonomy, 3D/4D mapping, localization, identification of target, tracking, collective 3D visualization, advanced real-time analysis framework, GPS denied environment radio communication network, target engagement and collaboration, the notice says.

Design and development of unmanned systems, components, prototypes and sensing could be included in order to solve these problems.  These sensing systems might have to be used by a variety of UAS, including small UAS, unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned ground vehicles.

The response date is Nov. 3, 2015.

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