The United States Department of Defense’s DIU (Defense Innovation Unit) has announced an approved list of U.S. or allied nation-manufactured sUAS (small unmanned aerial system) configurations for use by U.S. federal government and defense entities. This new DIU initiative, known as Blue sUAS, is the culmination of 18 months of work by the Army and DIU to select the best drone technology from U.S. and allied companies that adheres to new legislation concerning the use of foreign-made unmanned systems.
Blue sUAS provides trusted and secure sUAS options for the military and U.S. government from five companies – Skydio, Vantage Robotics, Altavian, Teal and Parrot. According to DIU’s website, the approved systems will have a range of at least 3 kilometers, 30 minutes or more flying time, the ability to fly through rain and dust, assembly time of two minutes or less, a weight of under 3 pounds on takeoff, high-resolution day and night optics, thermal imaging, open source protocol architecture, and simple integration with ground controllers.
Michael Kratsios, Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said: “UAS technologies have incredible promise and potential to not only provide great economic benefit for the American people, but also to enhance safety and security for our nation. We need a strong, secure domestic UAS manufacturing base to ensure American leadership in this critical field,” he said. “Blue sUAS represents a tremendous first step toward building a robust and trusted UAS domestic industrial base that ensures sustained delivery of highly-capable, secure UAS to the warfighters that depend on it.”
Kratsios added that DOD recognizes the growing value and capabilities of sUAS, from providing on-demand intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities in contested battle spaces, to routine monitoring of critical infrastructure and transporting products. He noted that until now, the Department was not able to adopt these systems safely due to security and supply chain concerns posed by Chinese-made sUAS.
Haven Wynne, General Services Administration supply chain management branch chief and program manager, said GSA is drawing up a 20-year contract, to include five-year options. He noted that the contract allows for the growth of additional accessories to be added to the platforms at a later time if required.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, commented: “Blue sUAS is a great example of DOD acquisition reform by lowering the barrier to entry for nontraditional companies to rapidly iterate shoulder to shoulder with warfighters to deliver highly capable sUAS tailored to mission needs.”
Chris O’Donnell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, platform and weapon portfolio manager, said that warfighter experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated the importance of small UASs to warfighters on the battlefield.