DARPA completes close-proximity flight tests of two modified RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles. DARPA is working on technology to allow UAVs to work in teams. (Air Force)
Autonomy and collaboration seem contradictory concepts, but DARPA hopes to marry them in UAVs.
The Collaborative Operations in Denied Environments (CODE) project is aimed at enabling UAVs to function autonomously yet work together. Most current UAVs "are not well matched in terms of future conflicts, which DARPA anticipates as being much less permissive, very dynamic, and characterized by a higher level of threats, contested electromagnetic spectrum, and relocatable targets,” reads a solicitation.
CODE will create heterogeneous teams of UAVs the take advantage of each asset’s features without having to integrate capabilities into a single platform, according to the announcement. DARPA envisions swarms of UAVs whose members support each other on missions such as geo-locating targets, using different types of sensors at differing observation angles, transmitting each other's information through the network, offering navigational aid, and protecting each other by simultaneously overwhelming enemy defenses.
CODE will focus on four major areas: autonomy of individual vehicles, human-machine interfaces that will enable a single operator to control multiple UAVs, team-level autonomy that will create a single common model of the environment so all aircraft are on the same page, and an open architecture.
DARPA will hold a Performers' Day conference on April 11.