DARPA has announced that it has successfully tested its Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) system for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) swarming in the Yuma desert, and that the system will shortly be ready for handover to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
A swarm of six RQ-23 Tigershark UAVs, equipped with CODE and an array of onboard sensors, successfully carried out mission objectives, even when communications were offline and GPS was unavailable. Next to the runway at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, the mission team inside a small operations center tracked the aircraft and as many as 14 additional virtual planes on an aerial map. The capstone demonstration paired program performer Raytheon’s software and autonomy algorithms and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory’s White Force Network to create a realistic, live/virtual/constructive test environment. During four demonstration runs, the team activated a variety of virtual targets, threats, and countermeasures to see how well the Tigersharks could complete their objectives in suboptimal conditions.
“Exactly how the aircraft continue to work together in degraded conditions is the most challenging aspect of this program,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, the DARPA program manager for CODE in the Tactical Technology Office. “Current procedures require at least one operator per UAV in the field. Equipped with CODE, one operator can command multiple aircraft; and in a denied environment, the aircraft continue toward mission objectives, collaborating and adapting for deficiencies.”