Defense Digital Service is Taking Over a Drone and Counter-Drone Development Team

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Building and scaling a suite of new drone capabilities is one of the Defense Department’s top priorities, officials said.

Rogue Squadron—not the Star Wars’ fighter squadron but a California-based, drone-focused Defense Innovation Unit team—now officially falls under the Defense Digital Service’s purview. 

In an announcement Wednesday, Defense officials said the group’s transition from DIU to DDS is meant to strengthen and scale drone and counter-drone capabilities and expertise across the entire Defense enterprise—areas that have become department priorities.

“The role of DDS is to push boundaries and increase technical competency in the department to address emerging threats,” DDS Director Brett Goldstein said in a statement. “Counter-[drone] efforts directly impact the warfighter, and we will use these new resources to support those who protect and serve our country.”

Launched in 2017, Rogue Squadron has since created a range of custom capabilities that the federal government is already putting to use. Defense is tapping into tailor-made, Rogue Squadron-built tools for its major counter-drone exercises, and an estimated 200 organizations across the department and government are using the squadron’s software. 

The group also collaborated directly with DDS and the Navy over the last six months and together produced “the real-time ability to detect and evaluate threats posed” by small drones. In that work and to advance Defense’s drone-driven vision and footprint, both DIU and DDS came to realize that “it made sense to combine efforts, resources, and personnel to create a group fully devoted to [small drone and counter-drone] missions,” officials said. DIU largely aims to connect Defense customers with commercial companies to prototype useful emerging technologies while DDS builds and implements new solutions that bolster national defense.

Rogue Squadron is based in Mountain View, California, while DDS personnel work in offices at the Pentagon, Augusta, Georgia, and remotely. But a DDS official told Nextgov that Rogue Squadron will be the foundation for DDS’s office in Silicon Valley—which they said is “informally called DDS West, for now.” 

“All DDS employees may work out of the Silicon Valley office regardless of duty location—just as all existing Rogue Squadron employees may work out of our offices at the Pentagon and in Augusta,” the official said.