Boeing has successfully tested the first swarm of unmanned aerial drones in history over eastern Oregon. Boeing's Advanced Autonomous Networks program director Gabriel Santander said "This is a milestone in UAV flight." Oh yes it is.
The test only used two drones, which it's not much of a swarm, but the hardware and software technology is the same and the test apparently worked perfectly. The two beasts flew together as an intelligent group "to search the test area through self-generating waypoints and terrain mapping, while simultaneously sending information to teams on the ground." They used Mobile Ad Hoc Network and swarm technology developed by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Boeing's Santander is excited about what this means:
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.
From reconnaissance to combat swarms
They used two modified Boeing ScanEagles, which are reconnaissance drones. These independent drones could be incredibly useful for ground troops, but obviously the potential of this technology is not going to stop there. It's not hard or crazy to imagine swarms of small, inexpensive, mass produced combat drones, perhaps with reactive skins and embedded warheads.
These warbirds would be given enemy signatures and, perhaps aided by other reconnaissance drones, they would be capable of taking down enemy planes, attack armoured ground forces or destroy whatever hostile target they acquire.
Boeing wants to demonstrate the technology at a larger scale in September. And I'm sure we will hear more and more about this technology in the coming years. [Boeing]