Two years ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates killed off the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle — a $13 billion misfire of an attempt to build an armored boat that could make landfall and still get around on the beach. But on Monday, the Department of Defense will give you the chance to design something better.
The DoD’s forward-thinking DARPA group plans to release open-source software that will let anyone design and run virtual tests on their own swimming tank. And more than that, it will kick off the first phase of a contest where you can pit your amphibious tank design against everyone else&rsqop;s. The prize: $1 million.
DARPA&rsqop;s software — built in part by researchers at Vanderbilt University — is called Meta. It&rsqop;s an open source version of the same kind of complex design and simulation software that typically costs big corporations tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, says Lt. Col. Nathan Wiedenman, the DARPA program manager in charge of the challenge.
The code will be released Monday at noon EST, and the first phase of the contest — called the FANG (Fast, Adaptable, Next-Generation Ground Vehicle) challenge — will kick off. Contestants will use this code to build a drive train and mobility system, Wiedenman says.
DARPA plans to continue to refine the code as the FANG challenge evolves. And, eventually, it will also release the source code to the Vehicleforge.org website that it’s using to manage the contest.