Charles River Analytics Inc. has received funding from DARPA under the OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics (OFFSET) program to develop Meta-Reinforcement Learning Innovation for Robust Swarm Tactics (MERLIN-RST). MERLIN applies a meta-reinforcement learning approach to discover and learn novel swarm tactics.

Image credit: Charles River Analytics

Through biology-inspired algorithms and deep machine learning, tactics in the OFFSET program help swarms achieve and adapt to mission objectives. However, human programmers cannot support the evolution of these tactics quickly or accurately enough—numerous variants in adversary strategy and evolving environments make manual development a challenge that may lead to system failures or brittle tactics.

“MERLIN explores a rich, complex, and unpredictable search space that describes the many possible forms a tactic can take and automatically optimize it to a wide range of mission goals,” said Michael Harradon, Scientist at Charles River Analytics and Principal Investigator on the MERLIN effort. “We’re laying the groundwork for a highly flexible design process that can dramatically improve swarm effectiveness.”

Under the MERLIN effort, the company is augmenting OFFSET simulators to model swarm performance in a wide range of challenging urban environments as part of the OFFSET Program’s Fourth Swarm Sprint. MERLIN builds on its recent successes under the OFFSET program. With SATURN, Charles River developed capabilities that give heterogeneous swarms of unlimited size resilient behavior while achieving mission objectives. Its EUROPA effort helps operators better control swarms in urban operations by providing novel, multimodal user interfaces tailored to tactical operational environments.