DARPA has conducted the second test for its program to test experimental “swarming” technology with air and ground robots for potential future missions in urban environments, the agency said Wednesday.

The latest test for the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program took place in June at Ft. Benning in Georgia, with officials noting contracts have been awarded for the next “swarm sprint,” which will focus on human-swarm teaming.

Autonomous air and ground vehicles head out for a run during the OFFSET program’s second field experiment in Fort Benning, Georgia. Photo: DARPA.

“The pace of our scheduled experiments requires our performers to take risks,” Timothy Chung, the OFFSET program manager, said in a statement. “Rapid integration demands that our swarm teams, both integrators and sprinters, develop smarter ways to improve their current processes.”

DARPA is running “swarm sprints” every six months, which includes a range of partners testing novel operational concepts with Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Raytheon’s [RTN] BBN Technologies serving as the swarm system integrators.

The June event, the second of six total experiments, brought together the Heron UAV, Michigan Tech Research Institute, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and Cornell University to test swarm autonomy tactics.

Officials compared the swarming objective in an urban environment to the “way a firefighting crew establishes a boundary around a burning building. They first identified locations of interest and then created a perimeter around the focal point.”

Tasks at the latest test included “locating and isolating a mock city hall building, locating and securing an objective inside and then securing the building” all while the unmanned systems simultaneously relayed situational awareness information. 

DARPA said the awardees for the next “swarm sprint” are software firm Charles River Analytics, Case Western Reserve University and Northwestern University.