Boeing has conducted a successful test of swarm technology designed to allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of different types to communicate and work together.
The demonstration used two ScanEagle UAVs manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, and a Procerus Unicorn from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL). Using the swarm technology, the UAVs were able to search a test area, generating their own waypoints and mapping the terrain they flew over, while sending the information to teams on the ground.
"This is a milestone in UAV flight," said Gabriel Santander, Boeing advanced autonomous networks program director and team leader. "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."
Communications between the different UAVs was achieved by establishing a mobile ad hoc network developed by Boeing Phantom Works, the prototyping arm of Boeing's defence and security operations.
JHU/APL principal investigator Dave Scheidt said that the demonstration showed there is the potential for improved response time and reduced manning requirements compared with current systems and was excited that the technology was able to be used with UAVs currently in deployment.
The ScanEagle was used in the NATO Unified Protector operation in Libya, providing assistance to US and NATO forces. It provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support, such as locating contacts of interest. It also provided near real-time, colour video that was used for battle damage assessment, and to improve battlefield awareness.
The Australian Army is also currently deploying ScanEagles as part of its fleet of UAVs.