“Ground Systems” team is the winner of DARPA‘s FANG Challenge (Fast Adaptable Next-Generation) Ground Vehicle:
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded a $1 million prize to “Ground Systems”, a 3-person team with members in Ohio, Texas and California, as the winner of the Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG)Mobility/Drivetrain Challenge. Team Ground Systems’ final design submission received the highest score when measured against the established requirements for system performance and manufacturability. “I’m very pleased with the quality of the submissions we received during the challenge, and we have learned a great deal throughout the process,” said Army Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, DARPA program manager. “The first FANG Challenge has been a great experiment, and the submission of many viable, innovative designs has validated theAdaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) design tools and provided invaluable feedback to continue their development.” Wiedenman noted that several different types of teams were able to use various aspects of the tools to create viable designs in the course of the challenge. The winning team, for example, was geographically separated, but was able to use the collaboration tools to create the winning design. Another finalist team was comprised of people who met through VehicleFORGE, the online collaboration platform used by competitors to manage and submit their designs. Still another top design was submitted by a one-person team. In many cases, a traditional design process would likely have excluded these teams from contributing their ideas.
More importantly, the FANG program is focused on providing future vehicle capabilities with a given emphasis on the complexity of operations in the battlefield:
The Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) program seeks to develop the infrastructure for and conduct a series of design challenges intended to precipitate open source design for a next-generation infantry fighting vehicle. The FANG program will apply META, iFAB, and VehicleFORGE capabilities to a series of design challenges of increasing complexity, seeking to leverage fab-less design, foundry-style manufacturing, and a crowd-sourced innovation model and culminating in a complete design and fabrication of a new heavy and potentially amphibious infantry fighting vehicle.
Designing is becoming important for new complex defense systems:
The engineering community at large is closer to being able to test drive META, a new set of design tools that promise to fundamentally change the process of complex systems design. The FANG Challenges, part of DARPA’s Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program, is all about opening up the design process to a wider pool of engineering talent as well as creating a new kind of collaborative design platform that can help eliminate the lengthy and costly design-build-test-redesign cycle that characterizes current development processes for complex military vehicles and systems, according to Army Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Wiedenman, DARPA program manager for the AVM portfolio of programs. “The primary goals of FANG and the practical demonstration of AVM technology development are to raise the level of abstraction in the design process, decouple design and fabrication, and use foundry-style manufacturing to compress the development process timeline by a factor of five,” Wiedenman says. Currently, only a relatively small number of vendors are able to participate in the design of military systems—a limitation imposed by existing tools that demand the multi-million dollar complex system actually be built first in order to truly understand how it performs. With a crowdsourcing approach and a collaborative tool environment like META, DARPA seeks to connect with engineers and designers beyond the limited landscape of defense contractors, Wiedenman explains, broadening the talent pool it can bring to bear on complex systems design. META comes into play as a way to shake up the way in which defense systems are engineered. DARPA says while today’s defense vehicles and systems are significantly more complex than they were in the past, they are still designed in much the same manner as they’ve been for the last 50 years. Typically, the design problem is broken down along engineering disciplinary lines based on individual sets of requirements, for the thermal system or the data system, for example. Once the individual components are built, they are put together and tested to see if they work as expected, which invariably, they don’t because components and subsystems interact in ways that can’t be fully anticipated, Wiedenman says. “That means, we have to go back and redesign, rebuild, and retest and so on … it takes a lot of time and a lot of money to iterate like this,” he adds.
Finally, DARPA is moving one step closer in designing and producing the next generation ground vehicle, as the FANG Challenge successfully ended.