Blue sUAS names 11 drone companies in DoD vendor pilot program

11 drone companies just got what may be a competitive edge, as the Department of Defense selected a handful of companies to join a new pilot program called Blue sUAS 2.0.

With it, the DIU has established agreements with 11 drone companies that are considered “non-traditional vendors” where they’ll participate in a pilot program to prototype a new process of approving U.S. military-compliant drones. The newly-announced Blue sUAS 2.0 vendors are:

  • Ascent AeroSystems
  • BlueHalo LLC
  • Easy Aerial Inc.
  • FlightWave Aerospace Systems Corporation
  • Freefly Systems East
  • Harris Aerial
  • Inspired Flight Technologies Inc.
  • senseFly Inc
  • Skydio, Inc.
  • Vision Aerial
  • Wingtra AG

The program is created under the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), alongside the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment  (OUSD A&S) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

What is Blue sUAS?

The original Blue sUAS program was created in August 2020 as a way to provide secure, trusted, drone capability to the U.S. government. In short, the DoD has developed criteria that drones must meet for U.S. government procurement, and the broader Department of Defense (DoD) and Federal Government partners are only supposed to use those approved drones.

Now referred to as “Blue sUAS 1.0,” that projected selected five drone systems for approval. Those are:

  • Teal Golden Eagle
  • Vantage Vesper
  • Teledyne/FLIR Ion M440
  • Skydio X2D
  • Parrot Anafi USA

These primarily American drone companies were hand-selected to build “trusted” drone systems for the DoD and other U.S. government partners. Most of the drones they make are ultra-secure, durable or have useful features.

For example, the Skydio X2 is also National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) compliant, thanks to features including signed and encrypted vehicle firmware, an encrypted hard drive, password protection for the controller, and data link encryption.  More military-focused is the Teal Golden Eagle, which is a US-made commercial drone system designed to provide aerial surveillance and awareness. Often, one of the DIU’s Blue sUAS solicitation requirements is use of open-source technologies.

The program required the companies who built them to make some minor modifications to their drones, and also required they integrate with commercially-based ground control stations to create a standalone commercial/enterprise configuration available to all DoD and other U.S. government entities.  All five systems were listed on GSA as the only federally vetted and approved systems available for procurement. 

What can we expect from Blue sUAS 2.0?

The five companies in the Blue sUAS 1.0 program have all seen sales go up, likely attributable to their newfound status. Some of the drones represented in the initial version of the program are built by companies represented in Blue sUAS 2.0, including Skydio.

But there are many newcomers, and this could provide a huge avenue for growth for those companies. And it’s important for the DoD, which has sometimes been limited only by the existing Blue sUAS-approved drones and their features.

“The need for additional capabilities in sUAS that are policy-compliant and cost effective  was a large driving force behind Blue sUAS 2.0.,” according to a prepared statement from the Defense Innovation Unit. “These systems will undergo cyber-security evaluations, policy compliance checks, and be issued the necessary approval documents required for any DoD user to procure.”

The DIU cited that it is seeking drones to be capable of tasks including infrastructure inspection, mapping, carrying secondary payloads, as well as more traditional reconnaissance tasks.

“The project will increase the diversity, capability, and affordability of sUAS on DIU’s ‘Blue UAS Cleared List,'” according to the DIU.

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