New University-Led Air Force Center of Excellence Focuses on Securing Autonomous Systems Operating in Contested Environments

(Image courtesy: U.S. AIr Force)

A new United States Air Force  Office of Scientific Research  (AFOSR) Center of Excellence (COE), led by the University of Florida , has been established to investigate a broad range of “assured autonomy” technologies and solutions for unmanned, autonomous aircraft operating in contested environments. The $6 million Air Force investment in autonomous cybersecurity will bring together researchers from the University of Florida, Duke University , the University of Texas at Austin , the University of California Santa Cruz  and the munitions, sensors, and space vehicles directorates within the Air Force Research Laboratory  (AFRL).

The researchers at the COE for Assured Autonomy in Contested Environments  – all of which histories of innovation for Department of Defense problems of interest – will focus on the availability, integrity, and effective use of information by leveraging its diverse expertise in dynamics, mathematics, control theory, information theory, communications, and computer science.

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The Air Force is interested in this research area because it needs its autonomous systems to be able to execute high-level mission plans with verifiable assurances in environments that see increased deployment of air, sea, and ground-based electromagnetic spectrum jamming technologies. These technologies affect the integrity and availability of sensor information and communications and key innovations are still needed to make tools that can operate with computationally constrained resources while accounting for uncertainty and cyber security.

To address the challenges, COE for Assured Autonomy in Contested Environments developed an integrated set of fundamental theories and methods across six diverse research topics.

William Kucinski  is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

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