Fast Lightweight Autonomy Indoor Drones For DARPA

DARPA has no ordinary wish for Santa - a Fast Lightweight Autonomous (FLA) indoor drone. And they want it by May 1, 2015. Tick tock, Santa, tick tock.

This is a sole source synopsis for the acquisition of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) platforms in anticipation of a new DARPA/DSO program called Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA). The program intends to develop novel representations and algorithms to enable small air platforms to fly fast (e.g., at least 20 m/s) in cluttered environments (e.g., indoors) using on-board autonomy with small size, weight, and power components. To enable quantitative comparisons between different approaches to autonomy, the FLA program will require the use of identical platforms. DARPA will provide a platform as GFE to FLA performers selected under an anticipated FLA broad agency announcement (BAA).

The source will be required to develop a platform with the following characteristics: (1) a high-performance autopilot with bi-directional communication to custom closed-loop motor controllers, integrated low-level calibration software, and built-in sensor error detection and redundancy features; (2) an open interface that enables manual piloted control, autonomous control through an onboard computer or wireless communication module, vehicle configuration and tuning, and user customizable feedback of various sensor data from the autopilot; (3) modular design enabling rapid replacement of components after a crash; (4) modular design enabling the anticipated FLA performer teams to easily add their own processors, sensors, and other equipment to the platform; (5) employ electric propulsion using multiple rotors in order to hover; (6) produce 3,600 g of thrust in order to achieve high speeds; (7) exhibit a thrust to weight ratio above 3:1 with a 300 g battery in order to achieve high maneuvering agility; and (8) measure under 28 in. from end to end with propeller guards in order to fit with at least 8 in. of margin through 36 in. windows.

I'm pretty sure that this device was fully spec'ed out quite some time ago. The Scarab robot flying insect from Raymond Z. Gallun's 1936 classic The Scarab, comes to mind. The scarab easily avoided obstacles in complex indoor environments.

Here are a few other examples from sf, the literature of ideas (tm):

  • Blurbflies
    From Jeff Noon's Nymphomation (2000); these are the perfect disinformation and propaganda devices.
  • Bee Cam
    From Karen Travis' City of Pearl (2004); this is just what you want for autonomous surveillance.
  • Aerostat Monitor
    From Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age (1995), these tiny devices kept a watch on the borders.
Via Feds.

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