The UK has tested a swarm of 20 fixed-wing drones — the largest military-focused trial of an uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) swarm in the country to date.
Funded by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the exercise concluded a series performed by the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s (DsTL) ‘Many drones make light work’ project. More than 220 sorties were flown during this two-week test.
The swarm included five different types and sizes of fixed-wing drones carrying different payloads and with different operational abilities.
DsTL’s technical authority called the exercise “a significant step forward in the understanding of the capabilities of swarming drones.”
‘Many Drones Make Light Work’ Project
The MoD awarded engineering company Blue Bear Systems Research a 2.5 million pound ($3.4 million) contract in 2019 to develop 20 UAVs which would ultimately be managed by the DsTL. The objective was to use the drones for medical assistance, logistics resupply, and situational awareness.
Blue Bear carried out a successful demonstration of a fully autonomous suite of multiple drone swarm assets last year. The swarm comprised the company’s fixed-wing systems in a test conducted beyond visual line of sight operations.
The five UAVs used in the most recent test were Blue Bear’s Ghost, Ghost Modular, Red Kite, Cobra, and the hand-launched Flat Pack system. Blue Bear’s operators managed the entire swarm while also handling other payload analysis tasks.
“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,” DsTL remarked.