DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The University of Dayton has been awarded a large government contract for research to benefit the United States Air Force.

UD has been awarded nearly $88 million for research and development to “advance, evaluate and grow Department of the Air Force autonomous capabilities.”

UD said through the five-year program, dubbed “Soaring Otter,” researchers will support the Air Force in its quest to increase its capabilities in autonomy by maturing autonomy technologies—including machine learning, artificial intelligence, neural networks, neuromorphic computing and data exploitation—from lab to field use.

“The Air Force is increasingly employing the science of autonomy to solve complex problems related to global situational awareness, resilient information sharing and rapid decision making, and UDRI researchers have developed specialized expertise directly related to these areas and to the Soaring Otter program,” Principal Investigator Patrick Hytla said. “Our expertise includes machine learning; neuromorphic computing; positioning, navigation and timing; open system architectures; automated decision making; and flight test planning, execution and analysis.”

The Air Force said the scope of the program will include seven focus areas: autonomy development and testing, evaluation of autonomy capabilities, novel computing approaches, new application spaces, open system architectures for autonomy, autonomy technology integration and testing, and maturing system support.

The work will be done in Dayton and is expected to be completed by February 2027. The Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is contracting the work.