The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is soliciting innovative research proposals for wide area surveillance of small unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in urban terrain.

Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in systems for performing these tasks. Specifically excluded is research and development that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.

Aerial Dragnet seeks to perform persistent wide-area surveillance of multiple small unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in urban terrain on a city-wide scale. Small UASs are rapidly becoming low-cost aerial platforms for hostile reconnaissance, targeting, and weapon delivery.

Unlike traditional air targets, small UASs:

  • fly at low altitudes (e.g., < 400 ft) which make them easily hidden by complex terrain,
  • move at slow speeds (e.g., < 90 kts) which make them difficult to differentiate from other movers, an
  • are small in size (e.g., < 55 lbs.) making them difficult to sense.

The project is aimed at a future scenario of urban battlegrounds where U.S. forces will be placed at risk by small UAS which use buildings and naturally-occurring motion of the clutter to make surveillance impractical using current approaches.

Rapid proliferation of commercial UAS with increasing endurance and payload capacity drives the need for a future urban aerial surveillance system that can detect, track, and classify many different UAS types at longer ranges in urban terrain, said DARPA.

The Aerial Dragnet program will take place over the next three and a half years and the final system must be capable of identifying target drones within 10 seconds of detection, with a 95% rate of accuracy and a false target rate of < 1 per 24 hour period.

The invitation is limited to contractors and individuals native to the U.S., and DARPA is holding a Proposer’s Day conference for the project on September 26th at Arlington, to provide additional information and address enquiries from potential proposers.