Warplanes: Intelligent Swarms


August 9, 2007: Military 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.


Article Archive

Warplanes: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close