The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is trying out innovation the 21st century way: crowdsourcing. The agency, along with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic and Northwest UAV Propulsion Systems, wants to build an advanced unmanned aerial vehicle, so it asked engineers and designers to submit their ideas.
The initiative, called UAVForge, received submissions from more than 1,400 teams, who were encouraged to share ideas and problems they’ve encountered in the hope that they would build on each other’s ingenuity and create something they might not have by working in secret. It’s still a competition, though; whichever team creates the best product will take home a $100,000 prize. UAVForge is currently in the process of voting for the top 10 ideas.
This isn’t the first crowdsourcing project by the Department of Defense, which has experimented with software and, last summer, unveiled a particularly hideous but — DARPA hopes — extremely versatile and inexpensive combat support vehicle, the FLYPmode.
Crowdsourcing is certainly one way to cut way back on parts of the defense budget. And though the idea is probably not well-received, generally speaking, by defense contractors, it’s not all bad news — Northwest UAV has already been awarded a contract to manufacture the winning idea. One has to wonder how the 1,400-plus teams can integrate classified military do-dads — which one might assume an “advanced” UAV would have — not to mention keeping whatever they come up with themselves a secret.