Swarming Military Drones Concept Tested

The concept involving a swarm of 20 drones completed two weeks of trials in Cumbria.

Twenty drones have taken part in historic trials evaluating the swarming capability of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Fixed-wing drones of different shapes and sizes, with different operational capabilities, flew more than 220 sorties over two weeks at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria.

The aim was to explore the practicality and military use of a swarm of up to 20 small UAVs operating together.

It was the largest collaborative, military-focused evaluation of its kind in the UK, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) said.

The test was the climax of Dstl's 'Many Drones Make Light Work' competition, funded by the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) Science and Technology Portfolio through the Defence and Security Accelerator.

In January 2019, the £2.5m contract for the third stage was awarded to a team led by Blue Bear Systems Research, including Plextek DTS, IQHQ, Airbus, and Durham University.

An operator flies a drone as part of the test (Picture: Dstl).

Three operators from Blue Bear's Mobile Command & Control System (MCCS) managed the swarm while handling co-operative payload tasks.

The Dstl Project Technical Authority said the test was a "significant step forward in our understanding of the capabilities of swarming drones".

"This 18-month collaboration has resulted in the demonstration of an operationally relevant capability and will inform and de-risk future choices and decisions about swarming drone capability."

Cover image: Dstl.