DARPA is just getting lazier and lazier. Instead of coming up with new pieces of hardware by themselves, they keep on sponsoring these competitions where everyone else (like you) can come up with good ideas. Crowd-sourced UAVs, anyone?
UAVForge is a DARPA-sponsored contest designed to get teams of anyone who wants to, to produce an advanced, highly capable UAV for the military. For an outlay of a $100,000 first prize (plus a trip to participate in a military exercise), DARPA is expecting to get a platform that can do something like this:
Key features here seem to be autonomous navigation, obstacle avoidance, loiter capability, and target tracking. This all implies some serious endurance, and the autonomous capability will be tricky in the sorts of environment that this video seems to show. Of course, there's a big disclaimer at the beginning about how this video is "not intended to represent the requirements" blah blah blah. And it's true that some of those features I just mentioned are part of the "advanced behaviors" list, as opposed to the "baseline objectives" list. But "advanced behaviors" have to be what DARPA is really looking for here: The basics (like take-offs, flying around a bit, and landings) are worth a mere 30 points out of the 200 that are possible.
All kinds of ideas have been put forward so far, with proof of flight submissions due last week. The competition itself will be a fly-off in spring of next year, and below, check out some of the conceptual craft that UAVForge teams are working on:
GremLion UAV - National University of Singapore
VoRPaL Monocopter - Embry Riddle University
[ UAVForge ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.