pilots insist the skies over Iraq are scarier than a lot of what's going on
down below. When there's a battle going on in the Iraq, the skies overhead
become crowded, and dangerous, especially at night. Because most of the
aircraft are UAVs, many of them too small to carry a transponder, air traffic
controllers try to keep these unpiloted aircraft restricted to specific areas
and/or, altitudes. While there have not been any fatal collisions, there have
been some non-fatal ones, and a lot of scary moments.
A solution to this problem has
been tested, and it involves installing smarter navigation software on the
UAVs, software that enables UAVs in an area to communicate and cooperate with
each other. Often, the main job of UAVs is to just fly around and look for
something specific, or suspicious. Using search pattern techniques first
developed and perfected during World War II, the UAVs software jointly develops
an optimal search pattern for each aircraft. This changes when something is
found, or when an operator changes the mission by, for example, ordering a more
intense search of a particular area. This happens when the bad guys in a
vehicle dismount, especially when they realize they are being watched. It often
takes a swarm of UAVs to track all these fleeing terrorists.
With UAVs cooperating and
communicating like this, their GPS location data can be sent to air traffic
controllers, and manned aircraft in the area. Pilots, for example, could call
up an image on one of their cockpit displays, that would show them in relation
to any UAV "swarms" in the area.
The UAV users also want to
reduce their manpower requirements with this software. Thus one team of pilots
and sensor operators could safely run three or four UAVs. In other words, one
operator team per swarm, instead of per UAV.