NEWS | April 5, 2021

NSWC Crane, ONR, NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge move to Phase II of their AISUM Prize Challenge

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the NavalX Midwest Tech Bridge recently advanced to Phase II of the Artificial Intelligence for Small Unit Maneuvers (AISUM) Prize Challenge. 

The purpose of AISUM technology is to augment the expeditionary and Special Operations warfighters with robotic autonomous systems into critical high-risk missions involving small unit maneuver.

As noted by the challenge announcement, “with today's emerging threat environments, adversaries attempt to contest all domains with advanced technologies and take advantage of the complex and congested battlespace. This reduces the effectiveness of Special Operation Forces (SOF) tactical maneuver elements, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and precision fires, creating the inability to maintain continuous airborne ISR feeds and key communications and navigation bands in the electromagnetic spectrum in these dense urban clutter environments, leaving our tactical maneuver elements challenged.”

Eight teams are moving on to Phase II, where participants compete in a virtual environment. The teams will develop specific algorithms and contest in various virtual scenarios. The participants will be evaluated for their algorithms to be used within a Government provided virtual map. A $250,000 prize will be awarded at the end of Phase II. The eight teams continuing in the challenge are: ASEC, Inc., Codex Laboratories LLC, Draper, EpiSys Science, Inc., Heron Systems Inc., Indiana University-Bloomington, Raytheon BBN Technologies, and TurbineOne, LLC.

“Moving on to Phase II will provide some unique challenges with the virtual scenarios, but it will also be a learning curve as we see what is possible with AI algorithms,” said Andy Brough, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Expeditionary Warfare Lead. “This prize challenge is a unique experience with a very short timeline. We’ve put forth a difficult technical challenge, but are hopeful based on the first phase that we selected teams who will help steer future AISUM efforts.”

The AISUM team chose the top 20 contenders from participants all across the nation during Phase I, where the teams had to submit white papers and virtually present their ideas. The AISUM team accepted only 20 papers and hosted virtual presentations for all teams in four days.

Partners and stakeholders from all across the Department of Defense (DoD), research labs, acquisition, and warfighting communities served on the technical review panel to assist in judging, grading, and down-select process of the top ten teams. Partners included Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Panama City, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic,  Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (SOF AT&L), Secretariat for Special Operations Command (SO/LIC), NSW (Naval Special Warfare), Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Office of Naval Research (ONR), Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

In Phase III, up to three teams will participate in the live exercise. The teams will each test their autonomous drone and its ability to enter a building, maneuver through the structure and identify objects and inhabitants, and exit the building. The prize is expected to increase to $500,000 for Phase III.

“I'm excited to see such high interest in the prize challenge, the foundational work that so many of the respondents have already accomplished, and the various innovative and novel approaches they presented,” said Anthony Vespa, at Naval Special Warfare. “It’s very promising in terms of moving the AISUM needle, and I can't wait to see what they can do in the simulation phase!”

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

Join Our Team! NAVSEA employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce - from students and entry level employees to experienced professionals and individuals with disabilities. We support today's sophisticated Navy and Marine Corps ships, aircraft, weapon systems and computer systems. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, IT and cyber specialists, as well as trade and other support professionals to ensure the U.S. Navy can protect and defend America. Please contact NSWC Crane Human Resources at crane_recruiting@navy.mil.