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Defense Enterprise Science Initiative

The Department of Defense (DoD) Defense Enterprise Science Initiative (DESI) is a pilot program that supports use-inspired basic research performed by university-industry teams.

DESI incentivizes use-inspired basic research projects, drawing industry and university teams together with the aim of discovering completely new solutions to challenging defense and national security problems.

This year’s announcement is themed around technologies to enable a new generation of sensing, mobility, and autonomy. Teams must include at least one university member and at least one industry member. All proposed team members must be active participants in the DESI project.

Industry’s initial role in a DESI project is to provide a national security context for the defense challenge, and to collaborate with the university research team throughout the project. The university’s role is to invent or discover knowledge that could be leveraged for completely new solutions to the defense challenge.

As a follow-on to research conducted with DESI funding, the industry partner is expected to further develop the project’s results into new capabilities that may be offered to DoD for future acquisition considerations.

Topic 1: Power Beaming

Today’s warfighter increasingly relies on autonomous and assistive technologies to maintain superiority in complex basing and battlefield environments. Weapons systems, drones, communications devices and the like demand electrical power during rapid deployment and extended operations, pushing the limits of today’s battery and energy storage technologies.

Wireless power transmission could augment existing technologies and enable new paradigms for warfighter operations in denied environments, unmanned or autonomous surveillance and weapons systems.

Possible focus areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Innovative power transmission modalities using laser, microwave or other electromagnetic frequencies
  • Devices and materials for beam emission and reception with increased fluence and efficiency and decreased footprint
  • Metamaterials, adaptive optics or the like for dynamic beam redirection and focusing onto a moving receiver

Topic 2: Highly-Maneuverable Autonomous UAV

The ultimate vision of this basic research program to yield advances that will enable the next generation of UAV platforms capable of autonomous operation. These platforms should effectively navigate a battlespace and respond to obstacles with minimal intervention from a human pilot. Research into the underlying principles of autonomous flight may yield new platform-independent algorithms. This program seeks to devise new paradigms for autonomous flight, with a focus on highly-maneuverable platforms and algorithms for flight control and decision-making.

The key challenges in this domain are the development of:

  • Highly-maneuverable and/or biomimetic UAV designs capable of making swift changes in flight direction and avoiding complex obstacles.
  • Self-contained algorithms and/or hardware architectures for autonomous flight control of a system with a large number of degrees of freedom, obstacle recognition and avoidance, real-time decision making and mission planning.

Topic 3: Soft Active Composites with Intrinsic Sensing, Actuation, and Control

Future massive military operational offset will leverage autonomous systems to increase situational awareness, lighten warfighter load, improve sustainment, facilitate movement, and protect the force. Some of the DoD capabilities required to achieve these goals include miniaturization of robotic platforms, swarming intelligence, adaptive exoskeletons, and all-terrain autonomous mobility.

The goal of this effort is to create soft active composites with unprecedented dynamic functionality realized through maximal substrate embedding of tightly integrated, decentralized, and highly distributed intrinsic (materials-based) sensing, actuation, and control.

Possible focus areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Distributed, intrinsic sensing and proprioception to accomplish a range of identification tasks
  • Distributed, intrinsic actuation actively leveraging substrate elasticity and sensing modalities
  • Novel wireless communication and power embedding to coordinate and intelligently innervate materials sensing and actuation capabilities
  • Novel 3D materials fabrication methodologies for self-sensing actuation

Topic 4: Metamaterial-Based Antennas

Engineering of resonant circuits on patterned substrates to form metamaterials offers the possibility of new devices and applications for sensing, generating and controlling electromagnetic waves.

The purpose of this effort is to research new microwave/millimeter wave airborne antenna concepts based on metamaterial elements. Advanced techniques such as multimodal compressive imaging could be employed to surpass conventional designs.

Of particular interest are approaches that:

  • Reduce the aerodynamic footprint by, for example, embedding the antenna into the surface of the aircraft without moving or protruding parts, or having the antenna conform to the airframe geometry.
  • Increase the speed of communications or surveillance between the aircraft and its surroundings by up to 3 orders of magnitude.
  • Scale to applications ranging from radar on manned airframes to antennas for miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
  • Reduce costs of manufacturing and operation.

Alternate Topics Encouraged

The list of topics provided above is by no means comprehensive, and teams are encouraged to submit alternative topics for DESI funding. The alternative topic must represent an area where significant defense challenges exist, and that would benefit from a use-inspired basic research program by a university-industry partnership.

Program Budget

DESI is sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OASD/R&E) and is run in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), and the Army Research Office (ARO). The estimated total program funding award ceiling is: $6,000,000.

Additional requirements are detailed in Solicitation Number: FA9550-18-S-B001. Proposals must be received electronically through by 11:59 PM Eastern time on March 30, 2018 to be considered.


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