The Department of Defence Australia is currently seeking proposals from Australian small businesses to contribute to the development of adaptive camouflage for uninhabited aerial systems.
Successful businesses will get a $100k grant for stage 1 and up to $750k Grant for stage 2
Specifically, novel solutions are sought that can:
- adapt to changing conditions to reduce the visual detectability against a sky background; and/or
- reduce/change the acoustic signature of these small aircrafts to make them less acoustically detectable in different environmental conditions.
Defence is encouraging research and development in this field with a view to producing signature management solutions that can later be developed and applied to larger, more detectable platforms.
The Australian Defence Force uses remotely piloted fixed-wing aircraft for some tactical surveillance operations. When deployed over a surveillance area, the aircraft is exposed to visual and acoustic detection from the ground.
Visually, for example, the aircraft may be silhouetted against the sky, which varies in luminance and colour, making traditional, single-colour aircraft coatings less effective in certain conditions.
Similarly, the acoustic noise generated by the aircraft may be detected prior to its visual observability.
While the use of uninhabited aerial systems allows smaller aircraft to be used which helps to minimise both the visible and acoustic signature, further steps can be taken.
A single-call selection process is being employed. Applications for the SBIRD Topic: Adaptive Camouflage for Uninhabited Aerial Systems will open on Thursday 14th June 2018 and will close at 11pm (AEST) on Monday 9th July 2018.
What grants or funding is available?
Research activities will be conducted across the two stages of the SBIRD program, with proposals addressing the specific selection criteria, each with a focus on the desired outcomes of the respective SBIRD stages:
Stage 1: Proposals will be required to describe projects that demonstrate a proposed idea / technology has real viability to function, while scoped around what is achievable within a maximum budget of $100,000 in a timeframe of between 6 – 9 months. Proposals also need to reflect how the outcomes of Stage 1 are positioned for potential additional work in Stage 2 and ultimately the provision of the desired capability.
Stage 2: Proposals will be required to describe projects that demonstrate a proposed idea / technology has real potential to be a solution to the problem, while scoped around what is achievable within a maximum budget of $750,000 in a timeframe of between 12 – 24 months.
To be eligible to apply for Stage 2 an applicant must have successfully completed a Stage 1 project.
NOTE: Outcomes from Stage 2 are not a mature product, but potentially a prototype to demonstrate whether the technology / idea provide real potential to be a concept solution to the requirement.
What are the eligibility criteria?
The use of smaller aircraft that are autonomous or remotely piloted is a basic signature management technique, minimising the visual and acoustic footprint.
In addition, detectability is managed by adopting a ‘best-bet’ paint colour, and following prescribed Tactics Techniques and Procedures (TTPs). This includes tactical flight patterns that:
- keep the aircraft high enough so that it appears too small for ground based observers to see and cannot be detected acoustically
- approach surveillance targets tactically to minimise the possible exposure time from the ground
The solution should encompass the following design parameters:
- Be adaptive/responsive to changing conditions and environments;
- For visual camouflage, reflect or reproduce sky colour/luminance on the aircraft as exposed to ground-based surveillance and suppress ‘glint’ from the surface;
- For acoustic camouflage, minimise or manage the noise generated by aircraft, and control the radiation pattern so that the acoustic signal can be radiated away from the ground.
The solution must have the following technical considerations:
- Low power (very little additional power could be feasibly supplied to a system on board a small aircraft).
- Lightweight – additional weight must be less than 3 kg.
- Robust to ultraviolet radiation, wind, precipitation, and launch and recovery operations.
- Implementable on a dron aircraft surface.
In addition, the solution must not interfere with surveillance and data transmission functions.
The key design benefits the solution needs to demonstrate are:
- Reduced detectability (either in the visual or acoustic spectrum, or both) of a remotely piloted aircraft from ground based observation, when compared to current implementation.
- No significant disruption of operation of aircraft.
- Cost effective solution with potential applicability to reducing signature for other Defence platforms or installation components.
What will not be considered for funding:
Stage 1 and Stage 2
- Alternative surveillance technology – as one key benefit sought is potential applicability to improved camouflage (either in the visual or acoustic spectrum) for other Defence applications, replacing drones with a different surveillance system is not a desired solution mode for this project.
- Paper-based studies (simulation based studies are acceptable) or literature reviews.
- Solutions that don’t offer significant benefit to Defence.
- Solutions which require unreasonable volumes of training data.
- Projects that only offer a written report (a practical demonstration is the desired end).
- Projects that can’t demonstrate feasibility within the timeframe.
Further information about the topic can be obtained from the following video, or in the SBIRD Topic Description document.
What is the assessment criteria?
All applications for Stage 1 will be assessed in detail by an evaluation panel, with a target date for notification of successful applicants being within 7 weeks from the closing date. Applications for Stage 2 will also be assessed in detail by an evaluation panel with the most promising applicants shortlisted and invited to pitch their proposal to the evaluation panel.
Successful applicants will be expected to begin projects shortly after signing a contract (however this may be subject to negotiation should there be extenuating circumstances).
Defence reserves the right to fund all, some or none of the proposals received under this Call for Applications.
Applications to this SBIRD topic will be assessed by an evaluation panel assembled by DST in accordance with relevant Commonwealth Procurement policies.
Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:
- Suitability – Proposals Achieving Outcomes (Weighting: 30%)
- How well does the proposed solution support the requirements of the topic and deliver the benefits sought?
- How clearly articulated is the proposed solution?
- Has the proposal been thoroughly considered (technical hurdles identified and addressed)?
- Organisational Capability (Weighting: 25%)
- Does the applicant/s have the experience, skills and capacity to achieve the desired outcomes?
- Does the applicant/s have access to all the resources required?
- How feasible is achieving the proposed solution within the framework of the SBIRD program?
- Would this project help create new jobs in your organisation?
- Innovation and Benefit (Weighting: 25%)
- The innovative nature of the proposed solution
- To what extent does the proposed solution lend itself to other applications?
- Is the implementation of the solution financially viable?
- To what extent has the strategy for scalability been defined?
- Fair Market Value and Proposal Structure (Weighting: 20%)
- To what extent does the proposed research activity represent fair market value?
- Is the proposed budget clearly articulated, logical with identified deliverables/milestones and associated costs?
How do I apply?
Applications are to be made online: Proposal Submissions.
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