You are here

Manned-Unmanned Teaming


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human Systems 

OBJECTIVE: This is an AF Special Topic in partnership with MD5. Please see the AF Special Topic instructions for further details specifically for requirements related to MD5 programs and services and this topic. The objective of this topic is to develop innovative systems or prototypes that address the capability of a human team leader to efficiently and effectively interact with a mixed team of manned and unmanned systems in both ideal and degraded communications environments. This topic will reach companies that can complete a feasibility study and prototype validated concepts in accelerated Phase I and II schedules. A Phase I award will be completed over 3 months with a maximum award of $75K and a Phase II may be awarded for a maximum period of 15 months and $750K. Proposals that are selected for award under the MD5 Special Topics will need to have participated in an MD5 program or service, or in another technology acceleration program, prior to the completion of the proposed Phase I SBIR project as noted in the AF Special Topic instructions. 

DESCRIPTION: A key challenge with unmanned systems is the high workload associated with the supervision and control of unmanned systems. This challenge increases with multiple teams of unmanned systems, with the integration of humans into the team of unmanned systems, and with degraded communications environments. Proposals may address approaches to: โ— Reducing the cognitive burden of human-robot teaming, particularly with a focus on managing multiple teams of remotely piloted and unmanned systems โ— Planning and oversight of tasks within mixed human – machine teams โ— Operations of manned-unmanned teams in degraded communications environments It is not required that all of these capabilities be provided as an integrated product, but it is required that any solution that solves part of the manned-unmanned teaming challenge be able to integrate well with other existing and potential solutions. It is also desired that any potential solutions have a linkage to relevant commercial technologies or products that will help to advance the development of products for the warfighter. 

PHASE I: Conduct a feasibility study to determine the effectiveness of potential or existing solution(s) for one or more of the manned-unmanned teaming challenges. This feasibility study should directly address: 1. Which problem area(s) are being addressed by the solutions 2. How they will apply to the US Government’s needs 3. The breadth of applicability of the solution(s) to the US Government 4. Give examples of which government customers would likely be able to utilize the solution(s) 5. The solution(s) should also be evaluated for cost and feasibility of being integrated with current and future complementary solutions 6. How the solution(s) will be able to address potential future changes manned-unmanned challenges 7. The potential to keep pace with technological change due to things such as other non-DoD applications and customer bases for the solution(s) The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I SBIR contracts are to be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough feasibility study using interviews, analyses, trade studies, experiments, simulations, and/or component testing. 

PHASE II: Develop and demonstrate a prototype system determined to be the most feasible solution during the Phase I feasibility study on manned-unmanned teaming challenges. This demonstration should focus specifically on: 1. A clear and specific government customer that can immediately utilize the solution 2. How the solution differs from any existing technology or product to solve the DoD need (i.e. leverage of new technology or a description of how existing technology has been modified) 3. How the solution can leverage continued advances in technology 4. How the demonstrated capability can be used by other DoD customers 

PHASE III: The contractor will pursue commercialization of the various technologies developed in Phase II for transitioning expanded mission capability to a broad range of potential government and civilian users and alternate mission applications. 


1: Office of Technical Intelligence, Technical Assessment: Autonomy. Feb 2015.

2:  2. Defense Science Board, Summer Study on Autonomy. Jun 2016.

KEYWORDS: Manned-unmanned Teaming, Autonomy, Command And Control, Human-machine Interface, Mission Planning 


Greg Coleman (MD5) 

(301) 502-1609 

US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government