Electronic Weapons: The Swarm Goes To War

May 2, 2016: Since the 1980s the U.S. Department of Defense has been spending more time and effort on developing technology to make it possible for autonomous robots to communicate and cooperate in maintaining the most efficient “swarm” of robotic sensors or weapons. Progress has been slow but successful. Now the navy is testing swarms of small submarine detecting surface and underwater vehicles. The air force has already developed swarming systems for UAVs as well as some types of aerial decoys. The army is doing the same with small robotic vehicles used for surveillance and security. After more than half a century of theoretical and practical work the swarms are about to enter service.

You could see this coming. For example in 2011 an American firm conducted a successful test of UAV swarming software. In practical terms, this is flight control and search software that enables two or more UAVs to organize and carry out the most efficient search of an area, once ordered to do so by an operator who controls all of them. Two Scan Eagle UAVs were used for the test. In many ways, this was the best UAV for this kind of thing. Since 2004 the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have been using and perfecting this lightweight UAV, equipped with high resolution day and night video cameras. Scan Eagle was originally designed to assist fishing boats seeking to find schools of tuna.Since 2003 Scan Eagle UAVs have spent over 30,000 hours in the air. Most of this was for U.S. Marine Corps units. But the navy was also encouraged by its tests, enough so to equip ships operating off the Somali coast, to fight piracy.

The swarming technology also has commercial applications, for any situation in which you want a land or sea area searched quickly and thoroughly using UAVs. But the military is particularly in need of this new tech, as there are often a number of different UAVs in an area, and the swarm tech enables all these UAVs to quickly participate in an automated search, where the strengths and limitations of each UAV are taken into account.

Full article: Electronic Weapons: The Swarm Goes To War (Strategy Page)

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