US Department for Energy publishes RFI for C-UAS protection of nuclear sites

The US Department for Energy has issued “A Request for Information: Data Standards, Interfaces and Command and Control Capabilities for the Next-Generation Counter Uncrewed Aircraft System (cUAS) Enterprise for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).”

According to the RFI:

“Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), on behalf of the Center for Security, Technology, Analysis, Response and Testing (CSTART) within the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) Defense Nuclear Security Office (NA-70), seeks information regarding the current capabilities, technologies, approaches, and business models for Counter Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (CUAS). NA-70 desires to explore Command and Control (C2) systems that are highly agile and adaptable to evolving threats. There is also interest in C2 systems that enable the use of advanced algorithms by exposing sensor data in raw formats that follow established and open data standards. Of particular interest are CUAS architectures and C2 capabilities that enable seamless integration of sensors, effectors and C2 algorithms from multiple suppliers, such that systems may be upgraded with the latest technology, without lengthy and costly development cycles.

“…..This RFI represents the first step in an anticipated large-scale multi-stage acquisition to establish the next-generation, long-term CUAS enterprise at multiple high security sites operated by NA-70. Responses to this RFI are expected to help inform NA-70’s acquisition strategy and planning for near-term development and testing of next-generation systems and their ultimate installation at high security sites.

NA-70 is responsible for the physical security of several high-security Continental United States (CONUS) sites. “In support of NA-70’s physical security goals, the Center for Security, Technology, Analysis, response, and Testing (CSTART) provides expertise on security technologies, systems, analysis, testing, inspection support, training, and response force.

“The characteristics of high security sites differ significantly, ranging from open and flat terrain in minimally populated areas to mountainous terrain near population centers. The widespread availability and rapid evolution of small uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), often referred to as “drones,” pose significant national security challenges. NA-70 has begun to plan for its long-term, next-generation approach to counter the UAS threat, pursuing an approach that:

  • Provides an open, non-proprietary architecture that is fully adaptable to different sites
  • Provides the ability to seamlessly incorporate sensors and effectors from multiple manufacturers, and the ability to quickly upgrade capabilities as threats and defensive capabilities evolve, without requiring full system replacement
  • Fully capitalizes on the advantages provided by multi-sensor fusion and autonomous data analytics and decision-making, enabled by technologies such as machine learning and optimization
  • Provides the ability to be operated, enhanced, and maintained by site personnel and contractors without permanent commitment to any one supplier

“The next-generation CUAS must address UAS threats defined as follows:

  • Capable of operating against Group 1, Group 2, and Group 2+, which is defined as aircraft with an unloaded weight of 55 lbs or less but which may exceed 55 lb when loaded with a payload
  • Capable of addressing extended altitudes beyond typical Group 2 limits in certain cases
  • Capable of operating against multiple simultaneous threat aircraft
  • Capable of operating against UAS controlled via a full spectrum of C2 methods including remote RF control, control over cellular networks, GPS waypoint-guided and fully autonomous e.g. terrain-aided dead reckoning
  • Capable of mitigating a spectrum of threat activities ranging from accidental incursions to surveillance to physical threats

“The following site characteristics apply to the next-generation CUAS enterprise:

  • CUAS must ultimately be configurable to operate and achieve the system requirements at a wide variety of sites with a range of terrain including wooded and mountainous, open desert, populated areas, in proximity to military installations, etc.
  • Must operate effectively in a wide range of climate and weather conditions including high wind environments
  • Each site will have multiple defined boundaries / regions within which UAS may not be allowed to intrude (“defended volume”), within which it is allowable to mitigate UAS (“engagement volume”), and within which it is allowable / possible to monitor UAS (“monitoring volume”)

“The top-level mission requirements for the next-generation CUAS enterprise are as follows:

  • MIS-001: The CUAS must sense, track, and assess defined UAS threats, allowing sufficient time for neutralization before reaching the defended area.
    • It is anticipated that multiple types of sensors and effectors, likely from multiple suppliers, will be required to maximize CUAS performance across the full threat spectrum and the diversity of site characteristics.
    • The CUAS must be able to discern and de-conflict between authorized and unauthorized UAS.
  • MIS-002: The CUAS must neutralize the defined UAS threat before reaching the defended area.
    • It is anticipated that multiple types of effectors, likely from multiple suppliers, will be required to maximize CUAS performance across the full threat spectrum and the diversity of site characteristics
  • MIS-003: The CUAS must utilize an open and modular architecture that enables equipment and algorithms from multiple providers to be interoperated with maximum effectiveness, combined performance, and extensibility.
    • This architecture and enterprise must facilitate the seamless incorporation of data from disparate sources at multiple time scales, including for real-time operations, intelligence sharing, algorithm training, and other uses.
  • MIS-004: The CUAS must employ automated and autonomous algorithms to leverage performance of multiple subsystems and developments in data fusion, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
    • The CUAS must be capable of algorithmically fusing data from multiple sensors to improve detection performance and reduce false and nuisance alarm rates.
    • The CUAS must be capable of providing autonomous and operator-aiding command and control functions.
  • MIS-005: The CUAS must include a modular user interface to efficiently meet the needs of key stakeholders, including operators, command, and headquarters.
    • The CUAS must allow an operator to be in the loop to provide human inputs, corrections, and critical decisions.
    • When operator in the loop decisions are utilized, the CUAS design must allow the operator sufficient time to make decisions.
    • The operations should be user friendly.
    • The CUAS should include features to enable the joint human-machine system to improve over time.
  • MIS-006: The CUAS must operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with minimal downtime, in a full spectrum of weather and climate conditions.
  • MIS-007: The CUAS must be compatible with common power, communications and other infrastructure elements typical of the sites.
  • MIS-008: The CUAS must support quantitative analysis, testing and health status self-checks to ensure initial and continuing function and performance.
  • MIS-009: The CUAS must be provisioned with an approved sustainment plan for the system’s lifecycle.
    • The CUAS supplier may be required to perform sustainment and maintenance OR may be required to be able to facilitate sustainment and maintenance by a third party provider
  • MIS-010: Operational procedures and comprehensive training must be provided to enable operators, maintainers, command and headquarters to effectively perform the CUAS mission, integrate CUAS with site security and mission operations, and manage the system’s lifecycle.

“Additional cross-cutting mission requirements are as follows:

  • MIS-CC-001: The CUAS and its components should maximize data transparency to the broader system and to the government.
    • Source code and all algorithm documentation for sensor fusion, autonomy, command and control, and user interface elements must be provided to the government.
    • All sensor / detector elements should be able to provide raw sensor data and all levels of processed data to the system.
  • MIS-CC-002: The CUAS must conform to all applicable laws and regulations and incorporate best practices for safety and health, physical and cyber security, reliability, maintainability, and scalability.

Deadline for responses is January 31, 2024 11:59 pm MST.

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