OFFSET Awards Contracts to Advance Swarm Tactics for Urban Missions

DARPA has awarded contracts to nine performers to begin work on the fifth swarm sprint for the agency’s OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program. The program envisions swarms of up to 250 collaborative autonomous systems providing insights to ground troops as they operate in dense urban environments.

OFFSET has five key thrust areas – swarm tactics, swarm autonomy, human-swarm teaming, virtual environment, and physical testbed – each sprint emphasizes one of those areas. The swarm sprints aim to encourage rapid innovation and continuous incorporation of the very latest technologies.

The fifth swarm sprint consists of two topic areas: Physical Testbed and Swarm Tactics. Swarm Sprinters in either topic will integrate their technologies into one or both of the OFFSET swarm systems architectures, and will further develop and demonstrate their innovative solutions in relevant field tests, planned for December 2020.

The following organizations received contracts for the fifth swarm sprint:

Thrust Area: Physical Testbed

  • Michigan Technological University/Michigan Tech Research Institute
  • Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • HDT Expeditionary Systems, Inc.
  • Sentien Robotics
  • Texas A&M University

Thrust Area: Swarm Tactics

  • Michigan Technological University/Michigan Tech Research Institute
  • Charles River Analytics, Inc.
  • Soar Technology, Inc.
  • Northwestern University

The five performers in the physical testbed thrust area will focus on accelerating integration of hardware components and enhancements to create compelling new swarm capabilities such as: reducing deployment time for swarms, introducing new sensors for navigation and perception, employing aerodynamic fixed-wing aircraft into swarm operations, and enhancing mobility of wheeled vehicles for urban settings.

“The urban environment presents compelling challenges such as tall buildings, tight spaces, and limited sight lines,” says Timothy Chung, the OFFSET program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.

“Enhancing the Swarm Physical Testbeds that tackle those unique challenges is a desired goal of the OFFSET program.”

The four performers in the swarm tactics thrust area will focus on the design and implementation of additional tactics employing a swarm of air and ground robots, and addressing specific mission objectives such as “seize key urban terrain within eight square city blocks over a mission duration of four-to-six hours.” Examples of proposed tactics include disrupting the opposition’s decision making, obfuscating swarm intent, updating maps of a dynamic environment, and maintaining the swarm’s communications indoors.

More information about OFFSET and swarm sprint thrust areas is available @

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