Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division and Hydronalix, Inc. of Green Valley, AZ, have signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) to create an unmanned aerial system (UAS) hardware platform for the final phase of an ongoing artificial intelligence prize challenge.
NSWC Crane is hosting an Artificial Intelligence for Small Unit Maneuver (AISUM) Prize Challenge with contestants from industry and academia. The objective of the challenge is to develop an algorithm to enhance the maneuver and reconnaissance capabilities of autonomous drones within defined scenarios. Cash prizes totaling $750,000 will be awarded.
Phase I of the challenge began in December 2020; seven participants have been selected to compete in Phase II, which includes demonstrating algorithms in virtual scenarios. In Phase III, finalists will utilize their developed algorithms with the provided drone and compete in real life scenarios.
The collaboration with Hydronalix, a company specializing in robotics and small unmanned vehicle technologies, involves a developmental platform prototype for demonstrating AI algorithms in support of Small Unit Maneuver and Counter-UAS Autonomy research. The new ADAPT UAS Hydronalix platform will be built or modified to support the hardware requirements needed to demonstrate algorithm development objectives of navigation, mapping, and object recognition in enclosed spaces in a representative contested environment.
The new ADAPT UAS will provide competitors with a stable flying aircraft, without use of GPS and able to position hold with lost C2 link, that also has a sense and compute payload that can be used for open source algorithm development and testing. Algorithm development (by AISUM contestants) will be for artificial intelligence, navigation, object detection, and mapping of enclosed spaces.
The new ADAPT drone to be used in the project was operated with USMC 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company Littoral Explosive Ordnance Neutralization (LEON) in EUCOM USN 6th Fleet Baltic Operations Exercise in June 2021, for vessel to shore re-supply missions. The UAS was developed by Hydronalix under a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) Phase I and II program funded by the Office of Naval Research and managed by NAVSEA.
“We are pleased to enter into this CRADA with NSWC Crane, as it will aid us in keeping our disposable UAS drone technology at the leading edge to assist in keeping the warfighter out of harm’s way," said Hydronalix CEO Anthony Mulligan. "We look forward to working closely with scientists at NSWC Crane and leading UAS research teams from around the country.”
“Hydronalix has demonstrated successful quality control performance in their adaptive manufacturing process, competitive product pricing, and the ability to source quality and open architecture sUAS components from other US manufacturers,” said Blake Busey, the NSWC Crane hardware lead on the project. “NSWC Crane is excited to collaborate with Hydronalix, utilizing their manufacturing and integration expertise, in support of a AISUM Prize Challenge common demonstrator platform."
NSWC Crane will be responsible for providing design requirements and any key performance parameters, and to receive equipment and test with the beta team. NSWC Crane will also oversee safety of flight and operation of aircraft prior to algorithm contestant takeover and safety override as required and will coordinate as needed between Hydronalix and AISUM Prize Challenge Contestants. Hydronalix will be responsible for integration of sense and compute payload, integration of safety measure for safety override during flight, and providing training or training materials for the safe operation of the aircraft.
Together, NSWC Crane and Hydronalix will be responsible for collaboration on new techniques and procedures, jointly present, publish and seek associated intellectual property, and design optimization, testing, and coordination with. The program will run thru June 2022.
Learn more about the Prize Challenge: https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/nswc-crane-aisum-prize-challenge/