Friday, December 9, 2016

OFFSET Envisions Swarm Capabilities for Small Urban Ground Units

OFFSET Envisions Swarm Capabilities for Small Urban Ground Units: Urban canyons-with their high vertical structures, tight spaces, and limited lines of sight-constrain military communications, mobility, and tactics in the best of times. These challenges become even more daunting when U.S. forces are in areas they do not control-where they can't rely on supply chains, infrastructure, and previous knowledge of local conditions and potential threats.

Unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) have long proven beneficial in such difficult urban environs, performing missions such as aerial reconnaissance and building clearance. But their value to ground troops could be vastly amplified if troops could control scores or even hundreds-"swarms"-of these robotic units at the same time.

The prime bottleneck to achieving this goal is not the robotic vehicles themselves, which are becoming increasingly capable and affordable. Rather, U.S. military forces currently lack the technologies to manage and interact with such swarms and the means to quickly develop and share swarm tactics suitable for application in diverse, evolving urban situations.

To help overcome these challenges and dramatically increase the effectiveness of small-unit combat forces operating in urban environments, DARPA has launched its new OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. OFFSET seeks to develop and demonstrate 100+ operationally relevant swarm tactics that could be used by groups of unmanned air and/or ground systems numbering more than 100 robots.