referring specifically to the J-UCAS contractual effort with DARPA. Welby continued by saying that in parallel to the J-UCAS program, other technology development efforts were being contracted out that could, if successful, support the J-UCAS program. For example, a software-enabled control effort had been executed in cooperation with that program that involved a significant amount of university participation. This effort involved state-of-the-art guidance and control work, which led to a series of flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base earlier in 2004. The software-enabled control effort involved collaborations among all the major aerospace clients and university laboratories both in the United States and abroad. The effort demonstrated key technologies that were made available to both lead contractors under the J-UCAS effort (Northrop Grumman and Boeing).
Welby said that under that previous technology development efforts, teams had built new capabilities, software, approaches for autonomous vehicle collision avoidance, and approaches for multiaircraft control systems. These capabilities (the intellectual property for which the companies did not possess on their own) were then demonstrated in a joint environment at a level of effort that universities would not have been able to handle alone. This government-developed capability has now been made available to all the contracting teams that are part of the J-UCAS follow-on acquisition programs. Welby believed J-UCAS was a good example of a very close collaboration early in the DARPA technology development effort leading to key advances that the agency hoped to see deployed in the aircraft acquisition program.
An attendee asked if there had been any explicit attempts to exclude universities from the UCAV or J-UCAS programs or if any other conditions had been set. Welby responded that during the early stages of the UCAV program, key pieces of the effort were simply focused on engaging the larger research community. That method seemed to work and had found its way into the larger systematic acquisition programs based on merit. He said that many of the graduate students who had worked on the early UCAV experimentation programs and other programs associated with UCAV were now involved in the preliminary design reviews and critical design reviews for J-UCAS and on other major unmanned aircraft programs. Joe mentioned that the industry was transitioning not only through formal mechanisms but also through individuals. He also said that DARPA gave no guidance to specifically exclude universities.
Benjamin Neumann asked about the timing of the UCAV development process in its two main phases. Did it fit well with the DARPA time frame for technology development and the entire life cycle of developing and terminating the project? Could DARPA use OTA or the standard SBIR mechanism with small business? Did DARPA have to do anything special? Neumann said that he was interested in how to get the SBIRs to be relevant and really useful. Welby replied that a portion of the DARPA budget, as authorized by Congress, was allocated to small business. Program managers tend to look on this as an opportunity to augment funding for particular programs. Since this small business program within DARPA also allows capturing a community of interest, program managers have an incentive to tap into as much of this basket of extra funding as possible.
Welby said that the process of working with small business had two phases. First, a set of solicitation topics is brought to the community. This phase usually has some long lead times associated with it, but the agency is then able to move relatively quickly to