Boeing engineers and researchers at a US university have demonstrated technology that allows unmanned drones to function like a swarm of insects, acting in unison with little direct human supervision.
The swarm technology was tested by Boeing and researchers from Johns Hopkins University on a pair of ScanEagle drones in Oregon during June, Boeing revealed this weekend at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International trade show in the US.
The technology allows a controller on the ground to operate a fleet of drones using only a laptop and a radio, with the drones able to communicate with each other and work in concert. The company did not release any footage or details on how the technology worked.
“This swarm technology may one day enable warfighters in battle to request and receive [drones] much sooner than they can from ground control stations today,” Gabriel Santander, Boeing’s program director of advanced autonomous networks, said in a statement. “Swarm network technology has the potential to offer more missions at less risk and lower operating costs.”
So-called ‘bio-mimicry’ – imitating the behaviour of insects in particular – has emerged as a key field of research in the rapidly expanding world of drone surveillance and warfare. The University of Pennsylvania is also testing drone swarm technology as seen in the video below.