A swarm of 20 drones, composed of five different types, with different operational capabilities has recently completed the largest collaborative, military focused evaluation of swarming Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in the UK.
The exercise was the culmination of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)’s ‘Many Drones Make Light Work’ competition, funded under the MOD’s Science and Technology Portfolio through the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
Following two earlier phases, the £2.5 million contract for Phase 3 was awarded in January 2019. This was for an Integrated Concept Evaluation activity to explore the technical feasibility and military utility of a swarm of up to 20 small UAVs operating collaboratively. This was awarded to an industry team led by Blue Bear Systems Research including Plextek DTS, IQHQ, Airbus and Durham University.
The swarm consisted of five different types and sizes of fixed wing drones together with six different payload types, flying representative tasks at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria. Three operators in Blue Bear’s Mobile Command and Control System (MCCS) managed the entire swarm whilst simultaneously handling different, collaborative payload analysis tasks.
The UAVs flew simultaneous Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) cooperative tasks, with Blue Bear collaborative autonomy ensuring they all contributed to overall mission goals. Throughout the two weeks of trials, more than 220 sorties were undertaken.
The Dstl Project Technical Authority, said: