CODE Makes Headway on Collaborative Autonomy for Unmanned Aerial Systems


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DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program aims to extend the capability of the U.S. military’s existing unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) to conduct dynamic, long-distance engagements of highly mobile ground and maritime targets in contested or denied battlespaces.

Image Caption: DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program conducted successful Phase 2 flight tests with teams led by Lockheed Martin Corporation (Orlando, Fla.) and the Raytheon Company (Tucson, Ariz.). The Agency has also awarded Phase 3 of the program to Raytheon to further develop CODE capabilities and validate them through a series of planned flight tests.

Multiple CODE-equipped unmanned aircraft would navigate to their destinations and find, track, identify, and engage targets under established rules of engagement—all under the supervision of a single human mission commander.

DARPA has selected the Raytheon Company (Tucson, Ariz.) to complete the development of the CODE software during Phase 3. Once fully demonstrated, CODE’s scalable capabilities could greatly enhance the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of existing air platforms, as well as reduce the development times and costs of future systems.

“CODE is working to develop a low-cost approach to upgrade legacy unmanned aircraft and make them more effective through groundbreaking algorithms and software that enable them to work together with minimal supervision,” said Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager for CODE and acting deputy director of the Agency’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO).

To date, the program has conducted Phase 2 flight test series with teams led by Lockheed Martin Corporation (Orlando, Fla.) and Raytheon validating the software open architecture and test-support framework. The teams completed numerous flight tests at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. The tests flew RQ-23 Tigershark UASs modified with CODE hardware and software to control flight direction, altitude, speed, and sensors.

“The Phase 2 test flights exceeded their objectives to stand up the infrastructure, and showed promising progress toward the future collaborative autonomy capabilities CODE envisions,” Ledé said. “In Phase 3, we anticipate further expanding CODE capabilities by testing greater numbers of aircraft and highly autonomous behaviors in more complex scenarios.”

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