Royal Marines

Commandos Operate Drone Swarms In UK Military First

Drones dived, sailed and flew together in a swarm during experimental exercises with the Royal Marines.

Royal Marines have been testing an array of autonomous systems in the sky, on the water and underwater in a first for the UK's Armed Forces.

Personnel from 40 Commando and 42 Commando have been using swarms of drones to carry out training raids on missile and radar installations at the Electronic Warfare Tactics facility at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria and at Lulworth Cove in Dorset.

The trials, named Autonomous Advance Force 4.0, are the latest in a series of experimental exercises developing how the Future Commando Force will operate in the future, with an emphasis on humans and technology working together closely on the battlefield.

The drones were tasked with tactically re-supplying commandos with everything from ammunition for the assaulting troops to blood for combat medics.

A Malloy unmanned aircraft can be controlled by personnel anywhere within a 70km radius (Picture: Royal Navy).

The swarm of drones also demonstrated significant flexibility and switched roles to conduct reconnaissance missions to provide intelligence for commando raids ashore and at sea against a hostile target, when launched from RFA Mounts Bay.

The autonomous systems also worked together to find and identify enemy targets, accurately using their range of sensors and target acquisition algorithms.

A Navy spokesman said: "The ultimate aim is to seamlessly embed autonomous systems on the frontline to support commando forces on the battlefield.

A Ghost drone flies above RFA Mounts Bay – although it is still in development it is capable of capturing thermal images and footage from 3,000ft above sea level (Picture: Royal Navy).

"These experiments scrutinise tactics and develop knowledge of how the drones can and cannot be used."

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said: "Only by continued experimentation with the latest technology and innovation can we properly prepare our people for the challenges of the future."

Colonel Chris Haw, the officer in charge of the experiments, said: "This has been yet another enormously important step forward in Royal Navy autonomy and particularly Commando Force transformation; I have seen phenomenal progress through this series of trials over the past two years. "But we must always remember that this tech is there to enhance commando excellence, not to replace it."


Cover image: A swarm of six Malloy TRV 150 drones operating at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria (Picture: Royal Navy).