DASA Competition: Affordable and Adaptable Unmanned Air Systems Autonomy

This DASA competition seeks affordable ways to deliver mass autonomous near-surface (0-10,000ft) capabilities for the British Army.

Opportunity Details


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The total possible funding available for this DASA competition is £0.8M (excluding VAT). A number of proposals may be funded. Additional funding is possible for further phases to incorporate successful solutions onto prototypes under development, using a commercial arrangement.



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This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition seeks proposals to boost the British Army’s domination of the ‘near surface’ (0-10,000ft above ground level). The goal of this initiative is to exploit emerging technologies to find affordable ways to deliver mass autonomous capabilities.

The Army is working on prototype autonomous capabilities that could increase the reach and impact of its units. However, these systems are often complex and expensive. Army Innovation is therefore searching for technologies that maintain capability and increase affordability.

To achieve this, affordable autonomous systems operating in the ‘near surface’ must be able to:

  • Deliver low-cost reliable effects. Platforms must be able to scan an area of interest and target an identified adversary vehicle using on-board systems.
    • Search or scan a 4km2 area to find vehicles of interest.
    • Target an identified vehicle after search for a subsequent action.
  • Survive affordably on the modern battlefield. Counter-uncrewed air systems technology is advancing rapidly, increasing the cost of survival. Platforms must be able to:
    • Operate in a contested or denied electro-magnetic spectrum.
    • Survive in an airspace contested by modern layered air defence.

Solutions must be incorporated into prototype platforms developed by a consortia of small and medium enterprises by January 2024. Further trials will continue through 2024. The best solutions that demonstrate cost-effective problem-solving with a high degree of success will be successful.

This competition has two challenges.

Challenge 1: low-cost reliable effects

To meet the demands of this challenge, the platform must be able to quickly search a location of at least 4km2 and detect potential targets of interest within 15 minutes. After completing a search, the platform must be able to sort and identify targets for further action. Ideally, the system should also be able to cue a variety of actions, such as making an on-board decision or presenting a decision to an operator, through interoperability. The platform must be able to do this in all weathers during daylight hours and in reasonable weather at night.

Ideas that might help solve this challenge area may include:

  • Optical systems able to scan, search, and lock on without the use of expensive stabilised moving parts.
  • Low-cost novel sensors able to improve the likelihood of finding obscured targets, or increase the certainty of positive identification of a target.
  • Software solutions to enable search or identification reliably, repeatably, and from limited data sets without being easily duped by physical countermeasures.
Challenge 2: low-cost survivability

An autonomous platform must be able to navigate to its destination despite challenges such as an unreliable GPS signal and electro-magnetic interference. It must also be able to survive against evolving counter-air and counter-uncrewed air system threats. Effective systems will provide simple and reliable solutions to changing threats, will increase survivability against direct fire and electro-magnetic interference, and will offer intelligible outputs that can interoperate with a number of different software backbones.

Ideas that might help solve this challenge area may include:

  • Novel low-cost position, navigation, and timing solutions that can interface with multiple operating systems.
  • Low-cost flight systems that improve manoeuvrability, either to increase agility, or to improve low-level flight.
  • Low-cost flight systems that reduce operator input to the lowest level across all conditions and require minimal operator training.
  • Novel, low-cost, reliable approaches to assured reach-back communications that minimise the signature of operators and platforms.
  • Novel, low-cost signature management for uncrewed air systems that reduce their detection and increase survivability without change to the base platform design.
  • Novel, low-cost targeting software that – without draining power, reducing payload, or relying on constant communication – enables a system to reduce its signature by being fire and forget up to the point of a decision or cross-cueing an action.


We want novel ideas to benefit end-users working in UK Defence and Security. Your proposal should include evidence of:

  • high technology readiness – able to reach TRL 6 by the end of the challenge.
  • high and proven interoperability across systems
  • low-cost (if scaled to mass-production)
  • the ability to assure a supply chain in the UK
  • the ability to scale to thousands of units if viable and subsequently proven
  • theoretical development, method of advancement or proof of concept research which can demonstrate potential for translation to practical demonstration in later phases
  • an innovative, disruptive (even ‘heretical’), novel, or creative approach
  • clear demonstration of how the proposed work applies to any defence and security context

On 5th July 2023, DASA will hold a dial-in session providing further detail on the problem space and a chance to ask questions in an open forum. If you would like to participate, please register on the Eventbrite page.


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