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Unmanned aerial system for organic squad-level situational awareness


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws. OBJECTIVE: Develop an unmanned aerial system (UAS) airframe (< 150 g) with extremely low SWAP-C to support squad-level situational awareness. Tactical ground control station and payload development are outside of scope. DESCRIPTION: The Army is currently attempting to field personal UASs for organic squad-level situational awareness and understanding (SA/SU). However, in the sub-150 g space, there are few if any options which meet all of the needs of the Soldier, and carry a substantial cost. Clearly, there is need for disruptive innovation to fold additional capabilities into a lower SWAP-C airframe. An airframe below 150 g is an Army Key System Attribute threshold, with an objective of 25 g. The airframe must have a payload capacity of ≥ 5 g, although payload development is outside of the scope of this effort (minimally, a “dummy” payload should be used). Visual and audible signature must be extremely low: it is an Army Key Performance Parameter that the audible signature not exceed 40 dB at 30 m. The UAS must have a flight time of 20–40 minutes. The UAS shall be capable of flight in sustained 15 knot winds and survive gusts of 20–30 knots. While development of an appropriate radio may fall outside of the scope of this effort, the airframe should minimally incorporate a COTS radio for demonstration purposes. In this case, it shall be capable of later integrating a radio with 900–1500 m line of sight and 300–600 m non-line of sight (-30 dB) range, encryption, and live video feed. That is, the airframe shall possess appropriate SWAP allowances on the system level to incorporate such a radio. Desirable features include threat detection and cueing; cursor on target; GPS and GPS denied operations; ability to integrate with ATAK/Nett Warrior (Android Tactical Assault Kit) and Adaptive Squad Architecture; obstacle avoidance; and GPS-denied return to home. Many or all of these features are likely beyond scope of this effort, but the airframe shall include appropriate hardware (e.g. processors, memory) to allow feature implementation without hardware change to the UAS. Maintenance shall be performed by the user and without special tools whenever possible. Operating temperatures are ≥ 0–20°C and ≤ 40–50°C and storage temperatures are (-30)–55°C. Ease of use and high mean time between essential function failure and system abort are important. Ultimate manufacturability of the UAS and materials/component selection are an important consideration during this development effort for keeping final unit costs low. PHASE I: Develop an initial concept design to meet the requirements above. Perform an analysis of key system-level design trade-offs (e.g. how does optimizing for one requirement such as range affect other requirements, such as payload capacity). Provide a high-level bill of materials for key components in the design, and consider potential suppliers. Deliver draft CAD or other designs/models for your concept, and discuss technical and commercial feasibility. PHASE II: Refine the design from Phase I using a detailed analysis of system trades and input from appropriate stakeholders. Fabricate, test, and deliver at least one prototype airframe meeting the above requirements, along with any supporting hardware (e.g. ground control station) and user manuals. Deliver a detailed plan to integrate any desired features into future designs which could not be included into the Phase II delivery prototype. PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: As appropriate, partner with relevant suppliers and/or prime contractors. Further develop the UAS and relevant sub-components to meet all of the desired specifications, and integrate the UAS into a low SWAP-C tactical kit with everything required to operate the UAS (e.g. ground control station, spare components, display, etc.). Develop firmware and interfaces required to meet sensor interoperability protocols for integration. Determine best system integration path as a capability upgrade for a relevant Army Program of Record. The desired end state is a UAS providing SA/SU to the Squad or first responder with low/no cognitive burden and user input. That is, the Soldier should not be taken out of the fight (head up, hand on weapon), and the system should be fully integrated with the rest of his kit and network. Squad-level SA could then be propagated through to higher echelons as desired. This allows the individual Squad to know what is around the next corner or over the next hill, assist with building and route clearance, and provide life-saving real-time local intelligence. Commercially, this technology has many applications for first responders. Police agencies can make use of it in many of the same ways as would the DoD. It would also be useful for search and rescue, especially in areas where it is difficult or dangerous for first responders to reach. A thermal payload, for example, would allow fire fighters to assess buildings and rooms before entry, and allow for much easier location of people via their thermal signature. Fitted with appropriate payloads, it could also discover chemical, biological, nuclear, or other threats, such as near a chemical spill or reactor meltdown. REFERENCES: 1. “Miniaturized small-pixel Uncooled Infrared Imager for Nano Unmanned Air Vehicles,” (2016); 2. “Soldier Borne Sensor OTA RWP,” (2020); 3. Market Watch. “FLIR Systems Awarded $39.6 Million Contract for Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance Systems for U.S. Army Soldier Borne Sensor Program,” (2019); 4. Ferraris, Patrick. “Soldiers train with Army's first personal Unmanned Aerial System,” (2019) KEYWORDS: UAS, UAV, drone, squad, soldier lethality, situational awareness (SA), situational understanding (SU)
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