Air Force begins search for Skyborg system design agent

By Sara Sirota / October 16, 2019 at 4:31 PM

The Skyborg program office is requesting white papers for a software-centric system design agent that can facilitate a modular, open-architecture approach in which the government has unlimited data rights.

Skyborg looks to enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities by teaming human pilots with autonomous drones flying close by.

The agent functions as an independent entity that awards and manages subcontracts at a faster rate than the government, according to the solicitation posted yesterday on Federal Business Opportunities. It also performs engineering and programming tasks to ensure the system can transition to operational use.

The notice says a modular, open-architecture approach offers design benefits as the Air Force looks to develop more autonomous technologies.

"To ensure the Skyborg system becomes a core capability for future autonomy development and not an isolated capability, the system must be designed in a way that allows rapid technology insertion, lowers the technical barriers for entry, encourages contributions from a variety of industry partners, and incentivizes rapid innovation and iterative designs as a primary means of profit," the solicitation explains.

The white papers will help the Air Force assess industry interest, validate cost estimates and learn industry approaches. The statement of objectives is marked "for official use only."

After reviewing the white papers, the program office expects to send a request for proposals to at least one respondent and issue one award in March 2020. The Air Force has allocated $7.5 million for FY-20, though the notice says proposals should not be restricted to this amount.

The award is expected to be an other-transaction contract for prototypes, which allows the service to give a follow-on, sole-source production contract. The design agent is restricted from follow-on prime contracts for Skyborg, though this does not apply to a future design agent subcontractor role, according to the call for white papers.

Responses are due Nov. 15. Contractors may have to work at the top-secret level.