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  • DARPA to Issue New Challenge
Apr 2011
ORLANDO, Fla., April 28, 2011 — DARPA will open a new $100,000 challenge in the next few weeks that will crowdsource the design of a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The announcement was made by David J. Neyland, director of the DARPA tactical technology office, during a special session on government funding at the SPIE Defense Security and Sensing 2011 conference.

While the agency will be issuing a Broad Area Announcement to find the vehicle's manufacturer, anyone will be able to enter the contest to design the new UAV, which will have to meet certain performance specifications, such as be backpackable, allow single-user operation, and be able to vertically land, send video data for three hours, and vertically take off again.

Challenge participants will upload videos of their vehicles to YouTube, where anyone can vote for their favorite design. DARPA will set up a webcast for competitors to narrow the field, and then host a live flyoff event with the finalists to choose the winner, Neyland said.

Prior to announcing the new challenge, Neyland reviewed some of DARPA's previous unmanned systems, such as BigDog, a four-legged autonomous robot developed by Boston Dynamics, that could impressively stay on its feet under a variety of challenging terrains and circumstances.

Another new unmanned system in the sea that Neyland discussed is the ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, the intent of which is to "pester the enemy," Neyland said, by shadowing an enemy submarine continuously and "pinging the hell out of it, all the time." Such unmanned systems, much smaller than manned submarines, will negate sub threats at one-tenth the cost, he said.

DARPA's MAV, or micro air vehicle, is an organic air vehicle that was designed for DARPA in the early 2000s and commercialized by Honeywell. The small video-capable drones are currently being used in Japan to fly into the reactors damaged by last month's earthquake to help workers see what's going on inside.

Other speakers during the government funding session were Jeffrey Smith, deputy director, plans and programs, at the Air Force Research Lab, who outlined the mission of the lab and the things that drive investment decisions there, and Edward Baranoski, director of the Office of Smart Collection at IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity), who talked about how his office serves the intelligence community.

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