New OS coming for robotic combat

New OS coming for robotic combat

ANAHEIM, Calif.'The Defense Department plans to develop the code-named Common Operating System for command and control, communications, weapons management, mission planning, human interface and other functions involving unmanned combat air vehicles, or UCAVs, program manager Marc Pitarys said yesterday.

Pitarys spoke at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's DARPATech conference here.

The Common Operating System 'is not a single, monolithic software application hosted on a central processing element,' he said. 'It is not like Unix, Linux or any of the available operating systems. It does not control resources such as hard drive, network cards or keyboards that one would expect a typical OS to control.'

Instead, the OS will manage elements specific to unmanned vehicles, such as weapons, sensors, autonomic control and communications links. It will also provide technical interfaces to command and control systems and other unmanned vehicles through networks such as the Global Information Grid and the ultra-high-frequency Link-16 of the Global Command and Control System.

'The system has to be intraoperable [with other DOD elements] as well as interoperable with outside elements,' Pitarys said.

The OS will control the UCAVs known as X-45, now being developed by Boeing Co., and the larger X-47 being developed by Northrop Grumman Corp. Last October, the development programs for both crafts were folded into the Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems program, jointly overseen by the Air Force, Navy and DARPA. DARPA runs the J-UCAS office.

The J-UCAS mission is to network UCAVs as a team. The program will foster 'the largest unmanned aerial vehicle system ever built,' said Michael Francis, DARPA program manager for J-UCAS. DOD plans to spend more than $5 billion on J-UCAS over the next five years, he said. Operational assessments will begin in 2007, when the office will transfer the program to one of the military services.

The Common Operating System will standardize the software-driven J-UCAS vehicles, Pitarys said, whereas software for unmanned aerial vehicles 'is usually developed in discrete pieces.' The OS will 'decouple the platform in a way that segregates the technology-driven elements from the air vehicle.'

The OS developers, he said, will work in a consortium-like environment. An as-yet unnamed 'integrator-broker' will coordinate input from Boeing and Northrop Grumman and other technical contributors. The integrator-broker will have no other role than coordinating the efforts of the contractors, in effect 'mitigating the effects of the competitive forces between the two primes,' Pitarys said.

DARPA plans to issue a solicitation for the work shortly and make awards early this summer, Pitarys said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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