Drone swarms support Commando Forces trials in a first for the UK’s armed forces

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Drone swarms support Commando Forces trials in a first for the UK’s armed forces Pictured: Royal Marines strike teams from Alpha Company, of Taunton-based 40 Commando, were on the ground and able to call on swarms of Malloy TRV150 drones – which can lift up to 68kg in all weathers – for deliveries of ammunition, blood and other supplies.

Drones dived, sailed and flew together in a swarm in a first for the UK’s armed forces during experimental exercises with the Royal Marines.

An array of autonomous systems operated underwater, on the water, in the sky and over land to help Royal Marines Commandos as they carried out training raids on a number of complex ‘adversary’ positions – such as missile and radar installations – in Cumbria and Dorset.

The uncrewed systems were used on missions at the Electronic Warfare Tactics facility at RAF Spadeadam on the border with Northumberland and off the south coast in training areas around Lulworth Cove and the Defence BattleLab.

In a first for UK Defence a group of six medium-heavy lift drones were operated in one autonomously controlled swarm from a single ground control station.

The drones were tasked with tactically re-supplying commandos with everything from ammunition for the assaulting troops, through to blood for combat medics.

The swarm also demonstrated significant flexibility and switched roles to conduct reconnaissance missions to provide intelligence for commando raids ashore and at sea against a hostile target, when launched from RFA Mounts Bay.

The autonomous systems also worked together, being tasked independently to find and identify enemy targets, accurately using their range of increasingly powerful sensors and target acquisition algorithms.

The trials – named Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 – are the latest in a series of experimental exercises that have developed ways in which the UK Commando Force will operate in the future, putting an emphasis on human and machines teaming closely together to gain a battlefield advantage.

The ultimate aim is to seamlessly embed autonomous systems on the front line to support commando forces on the battlefield. These experiments scrutinise tactics and develop knowledge of how the drones can and cannot be used.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said:

“Only by continued experimentation with the latest technology and innovation can we properly prepare our people for the challenges of the future.

“Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 is testing just how hybrid forces can operate on the battlefield, with elite Royal Marine Commandos enhancing their capabilities with the use of drone swarms.”

Colonel Chris Haw, the officer in charge of the experiments, said:

“This has been yet another enormously important step forward in Royal Navy autonomy and particularly Commando Force transformation; I have seen phenomenal progress through this series of trials over the past two years.

“But we must always we must always remember that this tech is there to enhance commando excellence, not to replace it.”

Drone swarms support Commando Forces trials in a first for the UK’s armed forces Pictured: Royal Marines strike teams from Alpha Company, of Taunton-based 40 Commando, were on the ground and able to call on swarms of Malloy TRV150 drones – which can lift up to 68kg in all weathers – for deliveries of ammunition, blood and other supplies. The commandos carried a small, rugged tablet on their chest giving the ability to tap a map location and time for the delivery of their supplies, leaving the Malloys to do the rest and drop in what they need when they need it.

UK MOD © Crown copyright 2021. 

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