DARPA hosting final drone swarm demo in November, companies look for service buy in

by Ashley Roque

Shown here is an image of Northrop Grumman participating in DARPA's OFFSET programme. Both Northrop Grumman and Raytheon BBN will attempt to have a single operator control 200-plus ground and aerial drones during a November demo. (Northrop Grumman)

The US Department of Defense (DoD) may be focused on finding technologies to down aerial drones, however, its Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is also working with Northrop Grumman and Raytheon BBN on ways a single operator can control hundreds of ground and aerial drones at once. While this developmental effort has been ongoing for years, it is scheduled to culminate in November when both companies head to Fort Campbell in Kentucky for a field experiment where each entity will test out their respective technologies.

Under the agency's Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) programme, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have been working as ‘swarm system integrators'. In this position, they have been developing the architectures, interfaces, and their own swarm tactics exchanges – this houses tools to help design swarm tactics by composing collective behaviours, swarm algorithms, and existing swarm tactics – to enable a single person to operate hundreds of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) drones at once.

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Red Six show video from augmented reality refuelling and aerial manoeuvre for the first time at I/ITSEC

by James Rands

Red Six unveiled footage of their augmented reality system at I/ITSEC this week. Red Six's Airborne Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) enables pilots to see and interact with virtual airframes while flying actual aircraft. Virtual aircraft currently have a ghostlike appearance by design but still have a realistic feel to them.

Augmented reality has been around for years but getting a consistent 3D image to appear and maintain its position in relation to the observer at the speed of a jet fighter is a huge technical challenge. Red Six's CEO Daniel Robinson told Janes that they have been the first to find solutions to a long list of issues and have multiple patents in place to cover that technology.

Major Megan Booze and Major Sean Lipkin from the USAF 4th Training Squadron have been employing ATARS while training F-15 pilots. While the system is new and under constant development, they could foresee huge utility especially in terms of surface-to-air threats, which are typically wholly notional on exercise.

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InVeris demonstrates its new SRCE mixed reality training environment

by James Rands

Exercising troops spot an enemy soldier in the SRCE virtual environment. (InVeris)

At I/ITSEC this week InVeris demonstrated SRCE – a mixed reality training environment. SRCE uses a VR headset and a pack with processing capability to enable exercising troops to see enemy and civilians and to engage them with small arms fire.

SRCE builds on InVeris existing marksmanship trainer, which is a programme of record for both the US Army and US Marine Corps. At present the system can cover 10,000 square feet with the aim to double that in the next year. Similarly it aims to expand the number of troops that can exercise concurrently. At present that amounts to a a fire team expanding to a 15-man squad next year with the ultimate goal of a battalion by the end of 2022.

The SRCE environment demonstrated this week uses modular walls provided by Trango systems. These are not essential to the system but does enable one of its features, which is allowing troops across multiple sites to train in the same synthetic environment simultaneously. A modular wall system means exactly the same layout can be built in more than one location.

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I/ITSEC 2021: Marathon Targets reveals new autonomous robot targets

by Giles Ebbutt

Marathon's new T50 (foreground) and T100 Autonomous Robotic Targets shown at I/ITSEC 21. The scuff marks on the armour plating of the T50 are from 6.8 mm rounds. (Giles Ebbutt)

Marathon Targets has upgraded its fleet of autonomous robot targets (ART) and showcased the updated versions at the International/Interservice Training Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando.

Ralph Petroff, Marathon president for North America, told Janes that the ARTs are “intelligent robots that move and behave like a real enemy, to form a thinking, adaptive, and unpredictable opposing force”.

Each target moves on a four-wheeled chassis driven by an electric motor and when hit will stop and fall. Groups of targets will advance and retire, using cover, according to the effectiveness of the fire against them. Petroff said that the use of ARTs can “improve the hit rate on moving targets from 20% to 80% in a single session”.

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