Military Embedded Systems

Autonomous challenge sponsored by Boeing and NATO highlights innovation in unmanned systems


June 07, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Students from TU Delft and other Dutch universities engage in the “PROJECT X” design challenge. NATO image.

VALKENBURG, Netherlands. The joint Boeing -- NATO PROJECT X innovation challenge -- a three-month-long innovation challenge aimed at generating new ideas for autonomous systems to reach inaccessible locations and improve situational awareness -- enabled teams from universities in the Netherlands to propose and test new approaches and technologies.

The two competing PROJECT X teams presented their concepts at an event in May hosted by Unmanned Valley, an autonomous technology incubator in Valkenburg, Netherlands. One of the teams, Team Alpha, designed a multiagent drone system that incentivizes unmanned aerial systems (UASs) to explore, identify, verify, and resolve targets of interest. Team Alpha's UASs prioritize targets to complete the mission in the most efficient way by enabling the presence of multiple intelligent assets and realizing the concept of egoistic altruism in machines.

The other team -- Team Monarch -- came up with a hierarchical model of specialized UASs that can autonomously survey hazardous areas, evaluate risk, and prioritize UAS positioning. According to the PROJECT X description, the Team Monarch three-level network structure enables an accurate assessment of dynamically changing environments, thereby making the concept suitable for a number of applications, including search and rescue, disaster management, surveillance, and target detection.

Following deliberation from the jury of experts from Boeing, NATO, and Unmanned Valley, Team Alpha’s concept was named winner of the PROJECT X design competition.

Robert Weaver, deputy assistant secretary general for Defense Investment at NATO, said that Project X emphasized the importance of autonomy and its digital enablers in areas such as data and artificial intelligence (AI), while Boeing International's Kim Stollar highlighted the importance of the vast potential of both public/private partnerships and university/student involvement in national security projects. 


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