DARPA Aiming to Enable Collaborative Autonomy for Unmanned Aerial Systems through CODE Program

DARPA’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program is now aiming to update the U.S. military’s existing unmanned aircraft systems to conduct dynamic, long-distance engagements of highly mobile ground and maritime targets in contested or denied battle spaces. Multiple CODE-equipped unmanned aircrafts would navigate to their destinations and find, track, identify, and engage targets under established rules of engagement - all under the supervision of a single human mission commander.

DARPA has selected Raytheon to complete the development of the CODE software during Phase 3. Once fully demonstrated, CODE’s scalable capabilities could greatly enhance the survivability, flexibility, and effectiveness of existing air platforms, as well as reduce the development times and costs of future systems. It is working to develop a low-cost approach to upgrade legacy unmanned aircraft and make them more effective through groundbreaking algorithms and software that enable them to work together with minimal supervision.

To date, the program has conducted Phase 2 flight test series with teams led by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon validating the software open architecture and test-support framework. The teams completed numerous flight tests at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. The tests flew RQ-23 Tigershark UASs modified with CODE hardware and software to control flight direction, altitude, speed, and sensors.

The test flights exceeded their objectives to stand up the infrastructure, and showed promising progress toward the future collaborative autonomy capabilities CODE envisions. In Phase 3, DARPA anticipates further expanding of CODE capabilities by testing greater numbers of aircraft and highly autonomous behaviors in more complex scenarios.