Unmanned Aerial Systems

DARPA seeks to redefine autopilot

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to develop advanced autopilot capabilities for  increasingly demanding on-board flight environments.

The Defense Department wants a technology package it can drop into military aircraft with an eye to replacing human crew members.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to develop "portable, flexible, advanced autopilot capabilities" for the aircrafts' increasingly demanding on-board flight environment, as well as to help reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance and improve aircraft safety.

DARPA's April 18 notice in FedBizOpps is yet another move by DOD toward creating more autonomous full-scale aircraft and the underlying IT systems that support them for a variety of roles in the military.

The week of April 6, the U.S. Navy unveiled a $100 million program to create unmanned helicopters that could ferry supplies to troops. The Wall Street Journal reported April 5 that over the next 10 years the Pentagon plans to create autonomous vehicles that could help in emergency evacuations of battlefields, search missions, and as high-capacity cargo mules.

DARPA's April 18 notice said its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program will handle the challenging and complex interfaces aboard aircraft for human operators. Even though avionics and software upgrades can help humans, they can cost tens of millions of dollars per aircraft, limiting the rate of developing, testing and fielding new automation capabilities for those aircraft, it said.

DARPA envisions ALIAS as a configurable, drop‐in and removable kit that would inject high levels of automation into existing aircraft, reducing onboard human crew.

As an automation system, DARPA said it wants ALIAS to be able to execute a planned mission from takeoff to landing, even in the face of contingency events such as aircraft system failures. ALIAS would include persistent state monitoring and rapid procedure recall, and easy-to-use touch and voice interfaces. It would also serve as a platform for enabling additional automation or autonomy capabilities tailored for specific missions.

DARPA scheduled a proposers' day on May 14 in Arlington, Va., to talk with potential developers about the project.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer covering acquisition, procurement and homeland security. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above