DARPA Searches for Tech Solutions to Enable Autonomous Commercial Drones

In the fast-evolving world of commercial drone technology, there is now an increasing emphasis on ensuring resilience to electromagnetic interferences. With the rising prominence of small aerial vehicles in military operations, adversaries are keen on deploying electromagnetic countermeasures. These countermeasures disrupt the vital communication between the drone operator and the aerial vehicle, posing risks of mission abortion, drone recalls, or even crashes.

Enter DARPA’s innovative initiative: The Rapid Experimental Missionized Autonomy (REMA) program. The central vision of REMA is to allow drones to sustain their predetermined mission paths, even in the event of losing operator connectivity. REMA embarks on this ambitious journey by commissioning experts to construct a subsystem. This subsystem permits the autonomous functioning of diverse commercially-sourced small drones, all without being restricted to a unique drone blueprint. Additionally, the program is channeling efforts towards developing mission-tailored autonomy software through swift, monthly development iterations.

Lael Rudd, the program manager stationed at DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, elaborated on the mission, stating, “The REMA initiative orbits around sculpting autonomous strategies that amplify the prowess of conventional commercial and compact military drones during combat scenarios. Our vision is to architect an autonomy adapter, compatible with every commercial drone across manufacturers. Coupled with the generation of task-centric autonomy software that’s continually updated and promptly installable pre-mission, we’re charting a course towards granting drone operators a pivotal edge in high-intensity warfare. The essence of REMA is speed – in technological advancement and in warfare response.”

The REMA program’s 18-month solitary phase is bifurcated into twin technical sectors:

  1. An all-encompassing drone-autonomy adapter interface.
  2. Customizable autonomy software tailored for specific missions, compatible with the said adapter.

The groundbreaking adapter is poised to universally recognize the drone model and calibrate functional parameters. This ensures drones can be equipped with the mission-specific autonomy software. The software’s development cadence is set to kick off at three-month intervals, swiftly ramping up to monthly cycles, guaranteeing the continual roll-out of enhanced autonomy functionalities.

For a deep dive into the technical nuances and to access proposal directives, prospective participants can explore the REMA program’s official invitation on SAM.gov: sam.gov/opp/7738334d62074883b03f5c4293e38315/view.

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