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December 10, 2021

US DARPA’s OFFSET programme conducts final field experiment

The OFFSET programme aims to develop small-unit infantry forces to carry out missions in urban environments.

The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) team working on the OFFensive swarm-enabled tactics (OFFSET) programme has completed its final field experiment (FX-6).

In the FX-6 experiment, the DARPA deployed swarms of autonomous air and ground vehicles to test mission capabilities.

It was carried out at the Cassidy Combined arms collective training facility (CACTF) in Fort Campbell, Tennessee.

Since the inception of the programme in 2017, OFFSET has held six field experiments, with each one increasing in complexity and difficulty.

In September last year, the DARPA conducted the fourth OFFSET field experiment as part of its efforts to explore new defence technology.

The programme aims to develop small-unit infantry forces using uncrewed aircraft systems (UASs) and/or uncrewed ground systems (UGSs) to execute missions in urban environments.

In the latest experiment, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Raytheon BBN Technologies’ testbeds were used to perform collaborative operations.

The testbeds included small unmanned systems, together with backpack-sized rovers, multi-rotor and fixed-wing aerial vehicles, which are collectively referred to as swarm agents.

The FX-6 experiment also demonstrated “virtual” swarm agents working in conjunction with actual systems on a real-world mission.

It also included commanding and controlling swarms using virtual reality, augmented reality, sketch tablets, and mobile phones.

DARPA Tactical Technology Office (TTO) OFFSET programme manager said: “OFFSET has cultivated a community in addition to swarm capabilities in the last four years.

“We have demonstrated in the field that these swarm capabilities are rapidly nearing availability for future operations, and the lessons learned from OFFSET will certainly contribute to future swarm advancements.”

The three swarm sprinters Sentien Robotics, the Johns Hopkins University applied physics laboratory, and the Michigan tech research institute attended the final field experiment and showcased their integration into the OFFSET ecosystem, DARPA stated.

In February 2022, OFFSET will display its capabilities at the army expeditionary warrior experiment (AEWE) that will be held at Fort Benning, Georgia.


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