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Boeing Testing Drone Swarming Tech

by John Reed on August 19, 2011

It’s been quite a week for UAV related news; we found out that the Navy will replace its big EP-3 Aries SIGINT planes with drones around 2020, then the Air Force announced that a midair collision occurred between a C-130 and a drone in Afghanistan and the Navy is arming its Fire Scout drone choppers.  Now, Boeing is experimenting with a concept of drone warfare that’s been around for a while; swarming.

Basically, you throw a ton of drones at an enemy and through sheer numbers overwhelm any defenses.

Last month, the Chicago-based defense giant flew two Insitu Scan Eagle UAVs and a Procerus Unicorn from The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory over Oregon and had them talk to each other autonomously. A key ability for remotely piloted aircraft to have if they are to attack targets together.

Many see swarm tech as the key for overwhelming modern air defense systems. Who knows, maybe someday in the not too distant future hundreds of relatively cheap but lethal drones will seriously reduce the role played by the F-22s, F-35s, J-20s and PAK FAs of the world.

From a Boeing announcement:

Swarm technology is similar to how insects communicate and perform tasks as an intelligent group. The UAVs worked together to search the test area through self-generating waypoints and terrain mapping, while simultaneously sending information to teams on the ground. A broader demonstration is planned for the end of September.

“This is a milestone in UAV flight,” said Gabriel Santander, Boeing Advanced Autonomous Networks program director and team leader. “The test team proved that these unmanned aircraft can collect and use data while communicating with each other to support a unified mission. This swarm technology may one day be used for search-and-rescue missions or identifying enemy threats ahead of ground patrols.”

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