Objective:

To begin dialogue and exchange data between government proponent Capability Developers/Materiel Developer Action Officers, the Joint Staff, Service Staffs, Army S&T and RDT&E agencies, academia and industry pertaining to our initial Joint Tactical Autonomous Aerial Resupply System (JTAARS) robotic/automated capabilities; and provide Industry with the concept of operations (CONOPS) which each service intends to utilize when employing Medium payload (up to 800 lbs.) automated unmanned aerial system (UAS) capabilities for future Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) organic sustainment.

Assumptions:

The following assumptions should be considered when providing a response to this RFI. Supply Drone concepts should describe any significant deviations from these assumptions.

  • First Unit Equipped (FUE) operational use by 2026.
  • At a minimum all Supply Drones will abide by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regulations.
  • Currently technologically mature enough to demonstrate operational capability (Technology Readiness Level 6).

Operational Performance characteristics are described below:

The two services [Army and Marine Corps] are specifically focusing on Unmanned Logistics Systems – Air (ULS-A) Medium, a Department of Defense UAS Group 3 or lower vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system with beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) command and control (C2), approximately 110 mile radius, a common handheld Ground Monitoring/Control Station (GMCS), and capable of transporting up to 800 pounds of any class of supply. The control system must be able to be integrated into current and future tactical C2 systems at Regiment (USMC) and Brigade Combat Team (BCT) (USA).

The system must be packaged for travel and employment and be transported inside a 20’ ISO container or Palletized Load System (PLS) flatrack.

Time to set-up and launch from field packed state (field packed system is defined as having all the required equipment to accomplish a mission and be in a state safe for transportation): 15 min.

The system must be able to be lifted out of travel container by 2-4 soldiers.

The system should be rugged, lightweight, easily transported, and ready to use as delivered.

The system will require minimal logistics, training, support requirements, and turn-around time between missions.
The unmanned air vehicle must be capable of automated functionality including launch, flight, navigation (including GPS-denied), cargo drop, landing, and return to original launch location. It requires autonomous ability to detect and avoid obstacles, evaluate and negotiate landing sites, and optimize its route to achieve resupply and retrograde objectives.
The air vehicle should be capable of negotiating a shared airspace, utilizing operational environment information provided by advanced weather radars and other typical technologies found on present-day unmanned aerial systems.

A universal common controller is required to monitor UAS position and status for continuous supervisory control, and to provide for dynamic re-tasking of the UAS, including during beyond line-of-sight flight. The control system must be able to be integrated into current and future tactical C2 systems at Regiment (USMC) and BCT (USA).

The hardware and software should have a modular open systems architecture framework that allows it to be have a variety of payloads and mission planning software, navigation systems, vehicle management systems, and C2 systems.
The system must possess cyber security capability.

Lightweight vehicle (notionally under 1,320 pounds max gross take-off weight), all components easily man-portable (small size vehicle), with minimal support equipment and maintenance (logistical footprint) required.

Able to autonomously land and takeoff from unprepared and potentially unmapped sites in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) and Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), in high hot environments, as well as in dust and sand conditions with minimum visibility.

Provide frequent/continuous status updates to ground personnel as required for expeditious and safe loading and unloading. There should be a primary and alternate form of communication in the case of primary system failures.

Capable of autonomously generating complete paths from takeoff to landing, modifiable in real time by a human-in-the-loop.

During flight, the Drone shall:

  • Execute preset lost-link procedures to attempt to reacquire the link in the event of data link loss within data link range.
  • Execute contingency plans in the case of failure of data link reacquisition, a last-minute change in the safety of the landing site, or upon wave-off command by a human in the loop.
  • Execute an abort if the UAS detects an unsafe condition.
  • Daytime and nighttime operation.
  • Operate in varied environmental conditions.

Response Guidelines:

Respondents are requested to include an explanation of the following items:

1) Entity information:

  • Name
  • If applicable: Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) code, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) business size(s), Business status: 8(a), Small Disadvantaged Business, HUBZone, etc.
  • Status as a U.S. entity, or foreign-owned, foreign-controlled, or foreign-influenced company
  • Receipt of funds from governmental agencies for development of your system
  • Partners, funding sources, investors
  • Contact information

2) Summary of previous relevant experience, to be included in PowerPoint slides:

  • Prior relevant technical experience with system level and component level design, analysis, verification, and validation
  • Prior relevant experience with prototyping and risk reduction
  • Prior relevant experience with engineering and manufacturing development
  • Prior relevant experience with production and deployment

3) Supply Drone concept:

  • Picture or image, description (e.g. mass, volume, operations concept, expected lifetime, method of propulsion, engine output in horsepower or kilowatts, etc.)
  • Hardware and software architecture description, including approximate size of software
  • When Supply Drone would be available for service
  • Rough order of magnitude estimate research and development cost to mature technology to sufficient level to support initial, low-quantity fielding
  • Rough order of magnitude estimate cost in quantities of 10, 50, and 100 systems
  • Quantity and size of containers required for shipping of the system (System must be packaged in the US Military approved containers compatible for ground, sea, and air transportation)
  • Landing site and flight constraints including required landing site preparedness, required landing site size, required horizontal and vertical clearance needed for takeoff and approach, and any equipment needed for site preparation
  • Maximum cargo capacity dimensions in feet and weight in pounds
  • Tradeoff between payload weight and range
  • Endurance between refuel or recharge in miles while carrying a 300 lb. load, and if battery powered, how the batteries are recharged, how much time is required to return to full charge following a maximum endurance flight, and equipment required to recharge
  • If applicable, data link used for communications between the GCS and each UAS, to include waveform, operational frequency band, analog or digital, and encryption capabilities
  • Assembly required to ready the air vehicle for operation from its field packed state

Be prepared to provide detailed information in response to the following example questions listed below in follow-on one-on-one meetings after the response period ends:

  • Has your company worked with alternative power options? If so, please describe the technology (including technology readiness level), fielding, and logistics involved.
  • Has your company worked with Artificial Intelligence in relation to UASs? If so, please detail the technology (including technology readiness level), fielding, and logistics involved.
  • Do you have additional autonomy innovations in development for your UAS? If so, please detail the technology (including technology readiness level), fielding, and logistics involved.
  • What are the different types of flight modes and mission control characteristics used by the system (manual, autonomous, waypoints, loiters, hover and stare, etc.)?
  • What safety features (i.e. lost link, lost GPS) are built into the system?
  • What level of encryption does the system use? What other security features does the system have, and how customizable are they?
  • Is the system capable of simultaneous air-vehicle operations from a single Ground Control Station?
  • Is the system capable of navigation in GPS denied environments? If so, how?
  • Is there any recovery equipment required? If so, please provide a description.
  • What redundancies exist for control effectors, actuators, sensors, power systems, and vehicle management systems
  • Are there any damage tolerant or fault tolerant control systems to mitigate damage, failure, or other degraded flight modes?
  • How many people are required to operate the system and what roles are required? How many people are required to maintain the system and what roles are required?
  • How many cubic feet of space is required to store the system when not being operated?
  • How many cubic feet of space is required to store the sustainment equipment (including parts, tools, fuel/batteries, etc.) required to support the system?
  • What is the size and weight of the ground control station?
  • From which countries are hardware and software sourced?
  • What is the status of the system critical technologies and components? What are the technology readiness levels, manufacturing readiness levels, and integration readiness levels of each critical component? What types of design, analysis, and experimental testing (e.g. ground testing, wind tunnel testing, and flight testing) have been conducted for either full-scale and subscale components or systems?
  • Can your system operate beyond line-of-sight (BLOS)?
  • What speeds is your system capable of sustaining with and without payload?

Responses:

All interested, capable, and responsible sources that wish to respond to this RFI, please respond with a PowerPoint presentation and short whitepaper no later than 4pm ET on Friday, 12 February 2021. Responses must be submitted through the DoD Safe Access File Exchange at https://safe.apps.mil/. Submissions through SAFE site require an email at least three business days prior to the due date with subject “Drop-off Request JTAARS” to the Government POCs and a submission link will be provided.

Please limit presentation to no more than 20 slides and whitepaper of no more than 10 pages, not including preprinted product data sheets or marketing materials. Interested sources may provide multiple responses, one per potential solution, to this RFI. All responses must be UNCLASSIFIED.

All questions must be submitted via e-mail, with JTAARS in the subject, to the points of contact (POC) for this RFI; Kenny Hood at kenneth.m.hood.civ@mail.mil and Genie Williams at genie.s.williams.civ@mail.mil. No telephone inquiries or requests will be entertained.

Interested respondents are hereby notified that Covered Government Support Contractors as defined in DFARS 252.227-7013 Rights in Technical Data – Noncommercial Items (Feb 2014) will have access to the respondent’s RFI response submittals. The Covered Government Support Contractors are employees of John H. Northrup and Associates (JHNA) under Government contract that includes DFARS 252.227-7025, Limitations on the Use of Disclosure of Government-Furnished Information Marked with Restrictive Legends (May 2013). Any responses marked in a manner that will not permit such review may be returned without being assessed or considered. All submissions must include an affirmative statement permitting the Government to disclose your company’s RFI submittal to Covered Government Support Contractors.

More details are here – https://beta.sam.gov/opp/50a1732949d74d01b18529609981b90b/view