As an example of how such UAVs could perform, How says a swarm
of surveillance UAVs could keep watch over a convoy, taking
turns to land on one of the trucks for refueling. Working together
as a team, they will ensure complete surveillance of the area
around the convoy. Other applications include indoor surveillance.
In recent tests up to five radio-controlled helicopters are
being used to collaboratively track small ground vehicles and
land on the back of small moving platforms.
A different approach is the Wolfpack 'cooperative hunters'
concept, where a swarm of UAVs tasked with missions such as
searching after one or more “smart targets”, moving
in a predefined area while trying to avoid detection. By arranging
themselves into an efficient flight configuration, the UAVs
optimize their combined sensing thus capable of searching larger
territories than a group of uncooperative UAVs. Swarm control
algorithms can optimize flying patterns over familiar terrain
and introduce fault tolerance to improve coverage of unfamiliar
and difficult terrain.
Since the early 2000's the US Navy is developing and testing
swarm operating techniques for future UAVs. The Smart Warfighting
Array of Reconfigurable Modules (SWARM) UAV project at the Naval
Surface Warfare Center has already assembled a fleet of 10 small
UAVs built by Advanced Ceramics Research (ACR), Tuscon, AZ.
These 'networked' UAVs are designed to operate in a cooperative
fashion, functioning together as a UAV 'swarm'. They can communicate
relevant information and reconfigure themselves, autonomously
changing direction in response to sensor input to achieve the
mission at hand. In 2003, some of these UAVs renamed Silver
Fox" were deployed to Iraq to support USMC units in the
field. In 2005 the navy awarded Alion Science & Technology
Corp of Chicago a US$20 million contract to further develop
an intelligent control system for swarming unmanned vehicles
to demonstrate autonomous operations and cooperative behavior
for persistent surveillance.
Topics covered in this article: