The following FAQ is intended to illuminate how DIU developed Blue UAS, dispel confusion or myths surrounding UAS policy, and promote greater participation in the overall DoD UAS ecosystem.
Q: What is Blue UAS?
A: Blue UAS is a holistic and continuous approach to rapidly prototyping and scaling commercial UAS technology for the DoD. Blue UAS aims to provide trusted, advanced capabilities to UAS users. Our work is aligned to one of 5 lines of effort.
Q: Before Blue UAS, how did DoD members access sUAS?
A: Typically, Department of Defense (DoD) members have access to a small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) if their unit is supported by a Service-level program of record or they must request an exception to the standing DoD policy suspending the use of commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) UAS. That exception to policy (ETP) process is time- and labor-intensive, temporary, and tied to a specific user/use case/location/drone combination. Any COTS sUAS ETP request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis via Service- or DoD-level processes.
Q: What is Blue sUAS 1.0?
A: Blue sUAS 1.0 was an offshoot of the U.S. Army’s Short Range Reconnaissance (SRR) program of record, which launched in late 2018. The Army required a rapidly-deployable, personal reconnaissance vertical take-off and landing sUAS for the dismounted soldier. In late 2019, during the prototyping phase, the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law and section 848 prohibited certain components from covered countries. While the Army’s focus was its own units, there was a need for NDAA-compliant systems across the DoD. As a result of this demand, DIU initiated the Blue sUAS 1.0 effort in August 2020, which sought DoD approval for all five systems to reduce the quantity of ETP requests processed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Services. All five drones were purpose built to meet the same U.S. Army mission, and while these systems were made available to the broader federal government, Blue sUAS 1.0 was not intended to answer every U.S. Government agency's complete set of mission needs.
Q: What is the difference between Blue sUAS 1.0 and Blue sUAS 2.0?
A: Where Blue sUAS 1.0 was an offshoot of SRR that created prototype systems to meet an U.S. Army requirement, Blue sUAS 2.0 is a project focused on administratively onboarding existing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) sUAS to make them available to the DoD without an ETP request. The project is focused on prototyping the process by which new COTS sUAS can be onboarded rapidly in order to keep pace with commercial technology development. The project will expand the variety, form factor, and capabilities on the DIU Blue UAS Cleared List.
Q: How do additional vendors get added to the Blue UAS Cleared List?
A: The Blue sUAS 2.0 Commercial Solution Opening was conducted in partnership with OUSD(A&S) to add more diverse capability to the list of DIU approved systems, but also to prototype a commercial UAS onboarding process for future vendor inclusion. Part of prototyping this process is to clearly define the administrative requirements, understand the time and costs associated in completing them, and DIU’s capacity to routinely add new systems to the Blue UAS Cleared List. Future opportunities for participation in Blue UAS will be posted on our website.
Q: Does not being a “Blue UAS” preclude the Government from purchasing any other UAS that are certified compliant by the purchasing Government organization?
A: No. Any DoD organization can purchase certified compliant UAS by completing their own internal administrative requirements. Blue UAS provides basic verification of DoD administrative requirements, but does not restrict USG organizations from purchasing non-Blue, certified compliant UAS that fit their mission needs. Any DoD or USG organization could complete the same administrative steps that satisfy their internal requirements.
Q: Why does the GSA Schedule prevent the listing of UAS that haven’t been added to the Blue UAS Cleared List?
A: GSA is not resourced or postured to ensure sUAS are vetted for policy compliance and cybersecurity which led to the decision to remove sUAS from the Multiple Award Schedules (MAS) program. Getting added to the Blue UAS Cleared list will be driven, in large part, by DoD demand signal, capacity, and budget. Our goal is to push as many compliant systems through our process, and we encourage all vendors to periodically review the DIU website for open solicitations. Keep in mind, there are other alternatives for vendors to sell to the USG. USG agencies have the ability to present a vetting process directly to GSA, and contracts have been awarded to vendors for large scale programs within the DoD and USG outside of Blue UAS.
In summary, DIU is an element of the Department of Defense, hence our primary concern is providing warfighters access to commercial technology available today to their civilian counterparts. Our requirements are the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the DoD. Any UAS we prototype or evaluate may be acceptable for other USG agencies but our focus is still on the DoD. Blue UAS is just one of many ways for a UAS vendor to interact with the DoD.