Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Prototype Navy Drones Swarm Like Locusts
I have seen little real forward thinking expressed about drone technology in the press. Instead we get odd press releases when it has become impossible to hide a systems existence. Yet there is obvious applications to imagine and we know that they are obvious and we know that they are been built.
The fundamental issue with drones happens to be software. It has never been hardware. Better the next generation of pilots will be working in a control room via a satellite link. That means that real war planes will be free of life support systems and their serious weight. We can do it now and we most certainly are doing it now. Recently China announced a supersonic drone. All they did was preempt the press release.
Now we see swarm software been tested for the first time. The hardware looks pretty mature as well.
The bottom line is that all conventional hardware weapons can be overwhelmed by swarms of airborne weapons in the first rounds of any opening of hostilities. Expect submarines to become drone launch pads soon.
Prototype Navy drones swarm like locusts
The days of enormous, singular UAVs directly controlled by remote pilots may be coming to an end. Over the last few years, there's been a lot work towards developing smaller drones capable of autonomously coordinating their actions, much like insects do. Now, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is taking these lessons and applying them to military uses, such as its new LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology) program. It utilizes a rocket tube launcher filled with lightweight, self-guided Coyote UAVs that team up and overwhelm enemy aircraft like honey bees defending their hive.
Using a bunch of smaller, coordinated drones rather than a single big one offers a number of advantages to the military. For one, replacing even hundreds of disposable drones is way less expensive than losing a $16 million MQ-9 Reaper. Plus, having the drones coordinate among themselves reduces the need for on-location operators. The LOCUST program will of course still ultimately be controlled by humans, but they'll perform a supervisory role rather than actually piloting the UAVs.
The LOCUST program successfully completed a series of initial test launches last month. Up next: a "2016 ship-based demonstration of 30 rapidly launched autonomous, swarming UAVs," ONR program manager Lee Mastroianni said in a statement. And over the next decade or so, the ONR hopes to deeply integrate these highly-autonomous UAV systems like this into numerous naval platforms -- from small ships and tactical vehicles to aircraft and even other, bigger drones.