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. We accomplish this goal through use of the Cleared List and Framework.
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: How did Blue UAS come into being?
A: Blue sUAS began as 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 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, the original tranche of platforms was not intended to answer every U.S. Government agency's complete set of mission needs.
Q: How has the Blue List evolved?
A: The first group of platforms selected was an offshoot of SRR that created prototype systems to meet an U.S. Army requirement. The second group focused on administratively onboarding existing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) sUAS to make them available to the DoD without an ETP request. Now, the project focuses on responding to the emerging needs of the warfighter to add, maintain, and modify the list as needed to meet the needs of the DoD.
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.
Today, the only ways to get added to the Blue UAS list are 1) for a DOD customer to sponsor inclusion, or 2) when DIU runs a Commercial Solutions opening, for a capability to meet a need for a DOD customer. At this time, we do not have a CSO planned for more platforms to be added. Unfortunately, there is no way for a commercial company to get added on their own. If you are a commercial firm and believe you have a government sponsor, please have them contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss Option 1. A lack of a government sponsor for inclusion on the Blue List does not mean that the DoD customer cannot purchase your platform. They can do so through pursuit of an Exception to Policy through the appropriate Service chain.
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.
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.
The laws and regulations that we use for Blue UAS only apply to the DOD, no one else in the Government (federal, state, or local) are held to these laws. No one. If someone says "you must be Blue" to sell, they are incorrect, or they have chosen that path of their own choice, independent of any other organizations.
Blue UAS clearance applies only to the specific models and configurations listed on our website. It does not apply to a family of models or a manufacturer. Platforms are also approved only for the specific configuration(s) tested, so adding any components that were not tested would require creation of a new ATO or pursuit of an ETP.
We are unable to provide determinations on hardware or software compliance with the NDAA and all other legal requirements, unless we are examining the components as part of a Blue UAS approval.
If you are interested in learning more about Blue UAS, please reach out to the DIU Blue UAS team at email@example.com.