autonomous systems

August 16, 2021

Systems & Technology Research, Woburn, Massachusetts, was awarded an $8,894,199 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to develop and demonstrate autonomy technologies for the Science and Technology for Autonomous Teammates program. This research will be part of experimentation campaigns in multi-domain command and control, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) processing exploitation and dissemination (PED) and manned-unmanned combat teaming. The location of performance is Woburn, Massachusetts, with base support at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.  The work is expected to be completed by August 11, 2024.

August 4, 2021

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is awarded a $9,693,289 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the effort titled “Autonomous Systems and Communications.” The work to be performed spans vehicle autonomy and multimodal communications. The project aims to improve base understanding of the environment through insitu sampling and autonomous decision making for the Naval research community. The capabilities in development align to the Navy unmanned campaign framework to directly work on key enabling technology outlined by the secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations. Work will be performed in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, with an expected completion date of August 3, 2025.

June 8, 2020

Austal USA, Mobile, Alabama, is awarded a $44,000,000 fixed-price incentive firm-target, undefinitized contract modification to previously awarded contract N00024-19-C-2227 for the detail design, procurement, production implementation, and demonstration of autonomous capability in Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 13. Work will be performed in Mobile, Alabama (60%); Reston, Virginia (35%); and Fairfax, Virginia (5%), and is expected to complete by July 2022. Fiscal 2021 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) cost-to-complete funding in the amount of $22,000,000 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

May 1, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
Collaborative small diameter bombs are launched from the wing of an F-16 fighter. Four of the bombs were dropped during the second flight demonstration of the Air Force Golden Horde Vanguard in March.  U.S. Air Force

For some time, engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory have been developing network collaborative autonomous technologies. Munitions that operate in coordination with unmanned aerial vehicles, decoys and other systems make decisions, shift course and achieve a mission. The researchers have successfully designed platforms to support such capabilities, as well as developing and integrating the complex subsystems that support the networking, collaborative operations and autonomy.

January 19, 2021

Mile Two LLC, Dayton, Ohio, has been awarded a $14,788,874 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for support to the Air Force Research Laboratory Autonomy Capabilities Team Three mission through the development of production level software systems and rapid prototyping of new operational concepts that leverage best practices for application development operations by expanding, extending, or enhancing work performed under the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research Phase II, Air Force Topic 183-005, FA8751-19-C-A048, entitled “TechSuite: TechScout and Project Tracking Prototype Applications.”  Work will be performed in Dayton, Ohio, and is expected to be completed January 15, 2026.

December 22, 2020

L3 Technologies Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, was awarded a $29,197,837 firm-fixed-price contract for the manned/unmanned teaming hardware, as well as technical and engineering support, for the Apache helicopter. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received.  Work will be performed in Salt Lake City, Utah, with an estimated completion date of June 30, 2023. Fiscal 2021 aircraft procurement (Army) funds; and 2022 Foreign Military Sales (Morocco, Netherlands, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom) funds in the amount of $29,197,837 were obligated at the time of the award.  The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-21-F-0144).

October 23, 2020

Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Mississippi, was awarded an $11,131,723 modification (P00030) to contract W56HZV-17-C-0095 for simulation-based reliability and safety virtual prototyping of autonomy-enabled ground systems. Work will be performed in Mississippi State, Mississippi, with an estimated completion date of October 22, 2022. Fiscal year 2020 research, development, test and evaluation (Army) funds in the amount of $11,131,723 were obligated at the time of the award. The U.S. Army Contracting Command, Detroit Arsenal, Michigan, is the contracting activity.


September 2, 2020

A-Tech Corp., Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been awarded a $34,905,249 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Surveillance, Intelligence, and Reconnaissance Enhanced Network (SIREN) program. The objective of SIREN is to provide an autonomous, multi-modal, space-based sensing capabilities for persistent tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Work will be performed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is expected to be completed December 4, 2025. The award is the result of a competitive acquisition and one offer was received. Fiscal year 2020 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $199,000 are being obligated at time of award. Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is the co

July 1, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
NASA is embracing a slightly different risk profile for its MoonRanger robot that will explore ice fields on the lunar south pole.  NASA

The current development of particular robots for NASA represents a methodical shift in how some Lunar or Martian vehicles are designed and how the related components or systems are included to support vehicle operation. Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic are working on a lunar robot for NASA’s Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload program, or LSITP, that is small, fast, solar-powered and will not be teleoperated nor radiation-hardened, which is quite a change from more risk-adverse prior methods.

May 29, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
For the U.S. Army to develop truly autonomous driverless vehicles, it must realize advances being pursued by the Army Research Laboratory. (U.S. Army photo)

The Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is handing its robotics research in adaptive autonomy to eight partners in academia and industry in what laboratory officials describe as a sprint to develop new capabilities. The Army has awarded $2.9 million in first-year funding as part of its Scalable, Adaptive and Resilient Autonomy (SARA) program to develop methods by which future Army robots can autonomously navigate rough terrain and avoid being blocked or upended by obstacles.

March 13, 2020

Penn State University Applied Research Lab, University Park, Pennsylvania, is awarded an $8,404,271 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Advanced Broadband Navigation Sonar System Future Naval Capabilities Program. This contract provides for the development and demonstration of technologies associated with continuous subsea autonomous navigation by developing and demonstrating improvements to navigational sonar systems. Improved estimation of positon and velocity afforded by advanced sonar processing will provide naval platforms with increased navigational performance for undersea platforms. Work will be performed in University Park, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be complete by March 2023.

February 4, 2020
Boeing and the U.S. Navy have demonstrated that one EA-18G Growler can be used to autonomously control two others. Credit: Boeing

Boeing and the U.S. Navy successfully flew two autonomously controlled EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station Patuxent River as unmanned air systems using a third Growler as a mission controller for the other two, Boeing has announced.

The flights, conducted during the Navy Warfare Development Command’s annual fleet experiment (FLEX) exercises, proved the effectiveness of technology allowing F/A-18 Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers to perform combat missions with unmanned systems.

December 17, 2019

BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP, York, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $249,152,760 modification (P00042) to contract W56HZV-17-C-0001 for the Self-Propelled Howitzer and carrier, ammunition, tracked vehicles and their associated support under the production contract to build and deliver M109A7s and M992A3s. Work will be performed in York, Pennsylvania, with an estimated completion date of January 31, 2023. Fiscal year 2018 and 2019 other procurement, Army funds in the amount of $249,152,760 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Warren, Michigan, is the contracting activity. 

September 27, 2019
Students from the Autonomy New Mexico program at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque developed drone platforms in order to test hypersonic system applications. Credit: Vince Gasparich

As part of Sandia National Laboratories' quest to develop hypersonic solutions, a group of university students working at the labs this summer developed autonomy and artificial intelligence capabilities for hypersonic flight systems. They tested the capabilities on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.

February 11, 2019

Georgia Tech Applied Research Corp., Atlanta, Georgia, was awarded a $9,775,501 cost-plus fixed-fee contract for Low Cost UAS Swarm Technology Distributed Autonomy prototyping, analysis, and support. The contract contains options, which if exercised, will bring the total cumulative value of the contract to $17,441,037. Work will be performed in Atlanta, Georgia, and work is expected to be completed January 31, 2020. If options are exercised, work will continue through January 31, 2022. Fiscal year 2019 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $9,061,486 are obligated at the time of award. No funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured under N00014-18-S-

November 7, 2018

Applied Research Solutions, Beavercreek, Ohio, has been awarded a $38,788,878 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, plus an option amount of $5,967,447, for sensing, learning, autonomy, and knowledge engineering research and development. This contract is to conduct research and develop multi-domain technologies and strategies to orchestrate closed-loop sensing that manages knowledge from environment understanding to mission effects, across multiple missions. Work will be performed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and in Dayton, Ohio, and is expected to be completed by March 4, 2024. Fiscal year 2019 research and development funds in the amount of $1,254,000 are being obligated at the time of award.

July 1, 2018
By Justin Sherman and Inés Jordan-Zoob
The Uran-9 unmanned ground combat vehicle took part in the 2018 Moscow Victory Day Parade on Red Square earlier this year. Credit: Dianov Boris/

The cyber realm has redefined the meaning of warfare itself. Conflict in cyberspace is constant, low-cost and uninhibited by traditional definitions of territory and country. Now, governments, militaries and private research groups from America to South Korea are taking cyber capabilities one step further, using developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to create autonomous weapons that will soon be deployed into battle.

Machine learning already has been used in both cyber and kinetic weapons, from autonomously firing gun turrets to human-superior social engineering attacks. While these advances are noteworthy, these machines are neither entirely intelligent nor autonomous.

April 26, 2018

Rockwell Collins Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been awarded a $7,783,517 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for architecture and analysis for high-assurance autonomy software. This contract provides for the development of technologies in support of providing assurance in depth through the architecture and analysis for high-assurance autonomy integrated suite. Work will be performed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and is expected to be completed by April 26, 2022. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition and 34 offers were received.

March 26, 2018
By Maryann Lawlor
Lewis Shepherd (l), executive consultant on advanced technologies at Deloitte, spoke with Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, about the rapid changes in technology at the AFCEA 2017 Spring Intelligence Symposium.

While stopping weapons of mass destruction and cyber attacks are high security priorities, the kinetic effects from cyber forces are a looming threat today. Malevolent uses for artificial intelligence combined with autonomous systems provide frightening new levels of capabilities to potential adversaries, and the U.S. Defense Department and the intelligence community are being called upon to address them with extraordinary vigor.

February 1, 2018
By Henry S. Kenyon
Researchers say they must be explicit when describing the results they seek or artificial intelligence may deliver the wrong solutions.

Artificial intelligence has a trust problem. While adoption is increasing in both the government and commercial sectors, artificial intelligence-infused technologies have not reached their full potential in many critical applications because their opaque nature does not give users a window into the decision-making process.


Lockheed Martin Corporation, Grand Prairie, Texas, has been awarded a $12,933,908 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Squad X Experimentation program to design, develop and validate system prototypes for a combined-arms squad. Bids were solicited via the Internet with one received. Work will be performed in Grand Prairie, Texas; Rome, New York; Menlo Park, California; Woburn, Massachusetts; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, with an estimated completion date of August 14, 2019. Fiscal 2016 and 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $7,506,796 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S.

May 24, 2017
By Julianne Simpson
Dr. Paul D. Nielsen, director and CEO, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, speaks at the AFCEA/George Mason University Critical Issues in C4I Symposium.

Autonomous functionality is increasing. The evidence is everywhere from drones and self-driving cars to voice-controlled devices such as IBM's Watson and Amazon’s Echo. The key to successfully transitioning to these increasingly autonomous systems for the military and defense industry is trust, said Dr. Paul D. Nielsen, director and CEO, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.

May 8, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
An unmanned aerial vehicle launches from a multi-utility tactical transport vehicle after exiting an autonomous amphibious assault vehicle during Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017. U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

Direct feedback and technical evaluations from warfighters and senior leadership participating in an amphibious, autonomous warfare exercise could affect the way the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps look at prototyping and rapidly acquiring technology. By pairing sailors and Marines with scientists and technologists, the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (S2ME2 ANTX) will help increase the pace of innovation, says Dr. David E. Walker, director of technology, Office of Naval Research (ONR).

February 1, 2017
By Sandra Jontz
Croatian divers and U.S. sailors with Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 8 load an Iver 3 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) into the MK-5 Zodiac for testing.

U.S. Navy researchers hope to advance maritime countermine technology by developing fully autonomous systems that support the service’s latest ships and doctrine. Both new threats and innovative naval systems are remaking the undersea arena in ways that render obsolete conventional countermine

November 1, 2016
By Sandra Jontz
The U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray is one example of the Defense Department's pursuit of autonomous systems.

Over the next decade—if not sooner—the U.S. Defense Department wants more of its military systems to operate autonomously, capable of independently determining the right course of action no matter the situation. The Defense Science Board predicts the department will get there. 

Autonomous systems address several problem areas, and reasons to pursue the technology are numerous, according to a technical panel presenting this week at the MILCOM 2016 conference in Baltimore.

July 1, 2016
By George I. Seffers
An all-terrain, search-and-rescue humanoid robot at Fort Detrick, Maryland, simulates how a soldier or item up to 500 pounds can be lifted and carried and how it can grasp fragile objects without damaging them. Unmanned systems of the future may be the first to encounter enemy fire.

Every U.S. Army soldier in 2040 may have a personal robot. It also is possible that autonomous systems will carry heavy loads, establish ad hoc mesh networks, act as communications retransmission stations, file spot reports on enemy forces and be the first to engage adversaries on the battlefield. 

August 7, 2015

PreTalen Limited, Columbus Grove, Ohio, has been awarded a $15 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, small-business innovation research phase III contract for position navigation and time autonomous negotiator applying cognitive effects-based analysis. The contractor will provide the extension of the suite of custom software and hardware designed to simultaneously and autonomously test available Global Navigation Satellite System receivers across the threat spectrum. Work will be performed in Columbus Grove, Ohio, and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is expected to be completed by August 9, 2020. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition.

November 30, 2012
George I. Seffers


September 13, 2010
By Beverly Schaeffer

It's nice when Fido obeys commands, but isn't it even better when he instinctively anticipates those directives? Apply this concept to unmanned systems-robotics to be exact-and the warfighter has a more foolproof companion by his side on the battlefield. That's the idea driving the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA) to advance the state of the art in unmanned technologies and move them more quickly into theater. Robots will eschew remote-control guidance, relying on programming that gives them autonomy via artificial intelligence.

October 15, 2014
By Sandra Jontz
An unmanned boat from Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock operates autonomously during a demonstration of swarmboat technology being developed by the Office of Naval Research.

With its developing fleet of autonomous “guard dogs,” the U.S. Navy is becoming more lethal and protective using the same technology.

The sea service is capitalizing on a first-of-its-kind autonomous technology, with software originally developed by NASA for the Mars Rover, which can transform just about any surface vessel into an unmanned platform able to protect other ships or “swarm” hostile vessels, officials say.