The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has successfully conducted technology demonstrations of swarming unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as part of the Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology (LOCUST) programme.
LOCUST is being developed to launch autonomous, swarming UAVs capable of defeating an enemy threat, while providing a decisive tactical advantage to sailors and marines.
During the demonstrations, which took place in mutltiple locations, Coyote UAVs capable of carrying varying payloads for different missions were launched in quick succession.
In addition, nine UAVs also achieved completely autonomous UAV synchronization and formation flight as part of the demonstrations.
ONR programme manager Lee Mastroianni said: "The recent demonstrations are an important step on the way to the 2016 ship-based demonstration of 30 rapidly launched autonomous, swarming UAVs.
"This level of autonomous swarming flight has never been done before.
"UAVs that are expendable and reconfigurable will free manned aircraft and traditional weapon systems to do more, and essentially multiply combat power at decreased risk to the warfighter."
ONR's LOCUST programme consists of a tube-based launcher, which enables swarms of compact UAVs to rapidly launch from ships, tactical vehicles, aircraft or other unmanned platforms.
Information-sharing between the UAVs is then used to allow autonomous collaborative behaviour in either defensive or offensive missions.
ONR officials said that the demonstrations successfully accomplished complete autonomous UAV synchronisation and formation flight.
Officials also noted that use of hundreds of small autonomous UAVs lowers costs and requires fewer people to perform multiple missions.
Image: UAVs as part of the low-cost UAV swarming technology (LOCUST) programme. Photo: courtesy of Office of Naval Research.