Defense

DIU issues $13 million in drone contracts to fight COVID

drones (I'm friday/Shutterstock.com) 

The Defense Department’s innovation arm has issued $13.4 million in small-drone support contracts under the Defense Production Act.

The Defense Innovation Unit used CARES Act funds to award five companies -- AirMap ($3.3 million), ModalAI ($3 million), Skydio ($4 million), Graffiti Enterprises ($1.5 million), and Obsidian Sensors ($1.6 million) -- contracts for small unmanned aerial system support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Together, the contracts are designed to help with “situational awareness, improve human-machine teaming, and provide engineering support” to better integrate drone capabilities into DOD’s programs, according to a July 10 news release announcing the contracts. Mission planning, analysis, drone traffic management, and autonomy are also featured capabilities of the investment.

The awards come as DIU is also seeking commercial AI-enabled drone capability that can be used in “unstructured and unknown environments,” according to a recent solicitation. The unmanned systems would also need to be able to “swarm” or connect with at least three similar platforms.

DIU also recently issued an award to expand a prototype program used to thwart persistent threats in cyber operations.

According to a July 8 news release, DIU awarded Respond Software a $2 million other transaction authority contract to prototype the Air Force’s Intelligent Decision Automation Platform, which uses automated decision-making capabilities to monitor and investigate malicious activity.

The solution also aims to reduce the number of false positives by automating mitigation, analysis and alerts.

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