Does Drone Swarming Technology Sound Bad? I Think So

The program is called Low Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST). It shows a significant advance in robotic swarming software. (Screenshot/YouTube)
The program is called Low Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST). It shows a significant advance in robotic swarming software. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The U.S. Navy has released a video on their new drone technology, which shows the deadly direction that the development of drones is taking. The new technology involves 30 synchronized drones that can coordinate and swarm the enemy autonomously.

The program is called Low Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST). It shows a significant advance in robotic swarming software. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has already demonstrated a similar technology with the swarming of 13 robotic boats on Virginia’s James River. The boats perform a variety of tasks while protecting a high value ship from any incoming boats.

Once they are airborne, the drones share information and coordinate an offence or a defence, each drone playing its allotted part. Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Once they are airborne, the drones share information and coordinate an offence or a defence, each drone playing its allotted part. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOCUST uses a tube-based launcher that will fire a swarm of UAVs from a ship, aircraft, or any ground surface. Once they are airborne, the drones share information and coordinate an offense or a defense, each drone playing its allotted part.

The U.S. Navy develops “swarming” drone technology by CNN

LOCUST is a system that is designed to launch 30 UAVs to swarm and overwhelm the enemy. It provides the operators a massive tactical advantage, ONR explains in the press release.

“The recent demonstrations are an important step on the way to the 2016 ship-based demonstration of 30 rapidly launched autonomous, swarming UAVs,” program manager Lee Mastroianni says.

“This level of autonomous swarming flight has never been done before… UAVs that are expendable and re-configurable will free manned aircraft and traditional weapon systems to do more, and essentially multiply combat power at decreased risk to the war fighter,” he adds.

LOCUST by the U.S. Navy:

For the LOCUST project, the Navy is relying on Coyote drones manufactured by Sensintel, an Arizona-based company recently acquired by Raytheon. Coyotes have proven especially useful to the special operations community, as well as in various types of scientific research. Last September, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, dropped a Coyote drone from a canister into Hurricane Edouard to study the storm, wrote Defense One.

The technology is revolutionary in its heavy advantage over remote-controlled UAVs. Image: Screenshot/YouTube

The technology is revolutionary in its advantage over remote-controlled UAVs. (Screenshot/YouTube)

“How do you get a lot of birds up in the air quickly? That drives you to a canister launch configuration,” said Mastroianni. “I’m platform agnostic. If you’re looking at a swarm of 20 or 30, there’s no reason why you couldn’t swarm Predators,” he said. “But when you get into something like the Predator, they want them back. They’re not going to be one-way missions,” said Defense One.

The new technology involves 30 synchronized drones to coordinate and swarm the enemy autonomously. Image: Screenshot/YouTube

The new technology involves 30 synchronized drones to coordinate and swarm the enemy autonomously. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Paul Scharre from the Center for New American Security writes in his reportRobotics on the Battlefield Part II, the Coming Swarm: “Individually, robotic systems can provide war fighters significant advantages in a range of missions.”

Autonomous swarm boats:

ONR says the technology is revolutionary because of its advantage over remote-controlled UAVs.

But safeguards are always needed, so human personnel will be standing by to take over if necessary.

LOCUST is a system that is designed to launch 30 UAVs to swarm and overwhelm the enemy. It provides the operators a massive tactical advantage. Image: Scrennshot/YouTube

By swarming and overwhelming the enemy, LOCUST provides the operators a massive tactical advantage. (Screenshot/YouTube)

The added benefit of the new drone program, and drones in general, is their ability to save greatly on costs for the U.S. military. The emphasis on autonomy on the battlefield will become even greater over the next 10-15 years, according to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert’s outline of the strategy, RT wrote .

Military Drone Technology an BBC Documentary 2015,  National Geographic Documentary

This research is not the first of its type. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been pursuing its Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program. Their aim is to allow a single pilot to operate multiple drones at once, as well as his own aircraft.

While it sounds like a great idea and it would save a lot of lives in a military application, where I have my doubts is that military technology always ends up in the private sector, or gets used on non-combatant’s. So how are governments going to ensure that this will not be used in the private sector?

 

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