Pentagon wants a few good mobile devs

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has kicked off an initiative to develop advanced applications capable of coordinating various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) programs.

According to DARPA program manger Mark Rich, current sensor systems, like those being developed for DARPA’s Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT) program, are increasingly complex as they offer advances in capabilities far beyond their current use.

One significant limiting factor in DARPA’s ability to leverage all of these advances is the lack of sophisticated, adaptive applications. 

For example, says Rich, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have become indispensable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms on the modern battlefield.

“[Yet, imagine] how much more effective they could be if an app were created that allowed a swarm of small deployed UAVs to be controlled as a single unit – a hive so to speak – without having to individually control each vehicle.

“[That is why we are] looking to tap the smartphone dev community with experience in application creation. From novel approaches to networked connectivity, accelerometer use, user interfaces and others, DARPA hopes to revolutionize sensors built on smartphone-like technology.”

Rich said he believed this could be accomplished by asking mobile app devs to help design advanced sensor system software for the US military.

“[Additional] potential scenarios for an ADAPT network could include perimeter security sensors hidden at a deployed airfield, underground, or sensors onboard small UAVs flying in a swarm networked together… These networks of sensors would share data and be programmed to provide user interface in various ways, such as via video to a tablet held by a sentry on foot.”

Rich acknowledged that civilian mobile devs would likely face certain challenges, as ADAPT core hardware, along with some core software, is currently under development. And unlike commercial smartphones, ADAPT sensors don’t include an embedded user interface, such as touch screen, phone, camera or battery. 

“[Nevertheless], the end vision for ADAPT is warfighter access to a library of ever-expanding ISR apps that run on a common hardware model using a common operating system – just like smartphones and apps in the commercial market today,” he added.