DARPA's crusade to revitalize and revolutionize U.S. defense manufacturing, through crowd-sourced design, virtual system engineering and on-demand fabrication, is coming to the aircraft industry.
The Pentagon's advanced research agency has launched the UAVForge project to demonstrate crowd-sourced design of small, persistent perch-and-stare unmanned aircraft that will participate in a fly-off competition. DARPA is looking for a manufacturer to support collaborative design and development and produce the winning design.
DARPA kicked off its drive to change the way we design and build defense systems on the ground, launching the FANG project to crowd-source the design of a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle. It also launched the Experimental Crowd-derived Combat-support Vehicle (XC2V) challenge to design a scout car based on a standard chassis. A working concept car using the winning Flypmode body design will be completed this month by crowd-sourced car creator Local Motors.
Winning XC2V design by Victor Garcia
FANG is being designed collaboratively via a website, vehicleforge.mil, that is modelled on the "forges" successfully used for open-source software development. You can propose a design and others can critique and modify it, like debugging software. Now DARPA has created a similar website, www.UAVForge.net, for collaborative UAV design. Here's what the solicitation says:
"The UAVForge initiative will use a collaboration/competition crowdsource approach to produce a small, affordable, and easy to operate UAV capable of persistent perch and stare surveillance. Novel manufacturing concepts and resources will empower a diverse community of innovators and emergent teams to deliver a superior UAV system solution relative to state-of-the-art systems.
"The overall objective of UAVForge is to develop an aircraft that costs $10,000 or less per unit, can be carried in a rucksack by an individual, can fly to and perch in useful locations at several kilometers range for periods of several hours, and provide continuous, real-time surveillance without dedicated or specialized operators."
The website lays out the steps to get your winning UAV design built by DARPA. First register, wherever you are in the world, then join or start a team and exchange ideas. The site provides forums and workspaces to share designs, find experts and get tips from manufacturers. The required milestones are to submit a concept video, then a proof-of-flight video and finally a live video demo.
Qualifying vehicles will then go into a competitive fly-off with a $100,000 prize and an opportunity to demonstrate their air vehicle in an operational exercise in 2012. The selected manufacturer will then build an initial lot of 15 air vehicles, working with the winning team to improve the producibility and reduce the cost of their design.
Excuse me while I dust off my design for the Clutterbuck-Cholmondley SkyPigeon Mk1 monothopter...