BAE Systems to Help DARPA Improve UAS Adaptability & Mission Efficiency

DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has awarded BAE Systems with two different contracts for developing technology that will enable a compact UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) to conduct multiple mission tasks with single, multifunction payloads that can adapt to changing battlefield situations and mission needs in real time. The two contracts combined are of worth $5.4 million.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) typically require multiple payloads with dedicated components, including antennas, RF circuitry, and processors, to conduct communications, radar, and electronic warfare (EW) missions. These single-function payloads can’t be installed on a compact UAS at the same time because of the size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints of these platforms, limiting what they can do without swapping payloads on the ground - a process that seriously hinders mission efficiency.

This agility is particularly important in denied environments, where multiple mission functions are typically needed to penetrate defenses and remain operational. By enabling small platform systems to share core components, the new technology will help defenses become more agile and stay on station longer.

DARPA’s program, called CONverged Collaborative Elements for RF Task Operations (CONCERTO), focuses on supporting communications, radar, and EW systems with a flexible RF architecture that uses shared common hardware, enabling multifunction systems that meet the low-SWaP requirements of compact UAS. The converged systems will be able to efficiently switch between intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; command and control; networking; and combat operations support missions without physical payload changes.

BAE Systems is also developing a flexible, virtual RF processing engine that can be reconfigured to quickly support diverse and simultaneous operating modes. As processing technologies become increasingly diverse, these virtualization technologies can provide adaptability and scalability to a variety of platforms.