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DARPA unveils Android-based ground sensor device

May 30, 2013 — by Eric Brown 2,414 views

DARPA announced a sensor reference system device based on a new Android-based sensor processing core called the Adaptable Sensor System (ADAPT). The initial ADAPT reference device, called UGS (unattended ground sensor), is designed as the basis for a series of lower-cost, more upgradable sensor devices for military applications.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) ADAPT program is part of larger effort by the U.S. military that aims to reduce costs and speed production schedules for military equipment. ADAPT plans to replace the traditional practice of using defense contractors for unattended sensor equipment with an original design manufacturer (ODM) process “similar to that of the commercial smartphone industry,” says DARPA.

“The goal is to develop low-cost, rapidly updatable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors in less than a year, a marked improvement to the current three-to-eight year development process,” adds the R&D agency.


DARPA’s ADAPTable Sensor System runs embedded Android
(click images to enlarge)

Although DARPA has not yet released technical details about the ADAPT core and UGS reference device, it would appear to use technology similar to that found in smartphones, starting with a modified Android sensor processing core and Android apps. The compact, cylindrical UGS device is intended to provide a cost-effective ground sensing capability. The UGS device is self-powered and can wirelessly network with other sensors, as well as networked equipment like a “video monitor at an operations center,” says DARPA.

DARPA will begin testing the UGS device with a variety of new sensors in field scenarios this summer. DARPA may also develop new ADAPT-based reference designs featuring sensor-specific apps for airborne, sea, and undersea sensor designs. To demonstrate the possibilities, DARPA removed the control interface of a small quadrocopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and replaced it with the ADAPT core. As shown in the video below, ADAPT “successfully provided flight control input to the UAV,” says DARPA.

ADAPT’s first flight


A Dec. 5, 2011 announcement seeking smartphone app developers for the ADAPT program noted that even back then, the “integrated processing, storage, communications, navigation, and orientation functions built into smartphone hardware and software can be leveraged to create far more powerful distributed sensor devices than we use today.”

The announcement also cited potential applications including swarms of hive-mind UAVs or robots, or perimeter security sensors hidden at a deployed airfield or underground, all networked together and capable of transmitting video. At the time, potential sensors were said to include internal accelerometers, gyro, or magnetometers, as well as external cameras, receivers or chemical detectors.

Stated DARPA program manager Mark Rich, “We believe that the ADAPT building block approach — where you take the ADAPT core and easily plug it into any number of ISR sensor reference designs — will transform how the military services and the defense industry approach to ISR sensor research and development. This method has the promise of being much more cost-effective, faster to the warfighter, and easier to refresh with technology upgrades.”

More information on ADAPT may be found at this DARPA ADAPT announcement page.

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One response to “DARPA unveils Android-based ground sensor device”

  1. mkb says:

    They could have had this in 2011, we’ve been selling one for years. You can get one for between $50 and $150, or build your own since it’s actually open hardware:

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