Watch the US Navy Test its New Drone Swarms


Wars can be won and lost on a budget. Expend your resources too far and your bottom line might wave the white flag for you. To that extent, the Office of Naval Research is working to make its operations less expensive and more effective, and it’s leading the way with drone research.

Known as the LOCUST program (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), the Navy is developing its ability to launch swarms of autonomous and rapidly-deploying aerial drones from a tube-based launching system, capable of fitting to ships, tactical vehicles, aircraft, and unmanned positions. By 2016, the Navy hopes to launch up to 30 swarming UAVs at a time. Take a look at how the LOCUST drones work, below.

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Once evacuated from their tubes, these ‘Coyote’ drones unfold their wings and can begin wirelessly coordinating either defensively or offensively with the rest of the drone swarm. According to Popular Science, the cylindrical drones can fly at speeds of over 90 mph, remain in flight for about an hour, and weigh less than 13 pounds. The Office of Naval Research is quick to point out that although the UAVs can operate autonomously, there will always be humans monitoring of the mission.

The roles for the drone swarms will vary widely, from acting as expendable targeting beacons for other aircraft to providing reconnaissance, but overall it’s hoped that the drones bring force multiplication to the battlefield and take engagement risks away from combat troops and more expensive aircraft.

The ancient pharaohs were not exactly fond of locust swarms, and it looks like the enemy combatants of tomorrow won’t be either.

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