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US Army to Test Largest-Ever Drone Swarm

The US Army plans to deploy a swarm of 30 drones over a desert in Utah as part of the 2022 Experimental Demonstration Gateway Exercise later this month.

Launched from various aircraft and ground vehicles, the swarm will be the largest collection of drones that the US Army has ever tested.

Among the drones in the swarm will be Area-I’s small Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated, Unmanned System 600 (ALTIUS 600), and Raytheon’s Coyote drone.

The swarm will converge on a target area, sense enemy forces using infrared sensors and electronic warfare payloads, fix their positions, and feed information back to networked ground troops.

According to army Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, spectators in the upcoming exercise will see the “expansive use” of electronic warfare and an interactive drone swarm.

“We’ll be launching them pretty much, you know, Monster Garage-style, anyway we can,” he told The War Zone.

“Which again shows, in my mind, just the flexibility of our air-launched effects initiatives, because we can launch it from the air, we can launch it from the ground, we can launch from fixed-wing, rotary-wing, any type of ground vehicle.”

The Plan

Rugen explained that previous small drone swarm trials inspired the decision to test a swarm of up to 30 drones.

The plan is to use networked drones to sense, detect, identify, and potentially strike enemy positions before helicopters arrive on the scene.

The swarm will autonomously scan vast terrain, feeding video and targeting information to manned platforms.

The drones will carry either passive or active capabilities, equipped with electro-optical or infrared imaging cameras, electronic jamming equipment, or a powerful warhead for strikes on enemy targets.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency tested a similar concept last year, based on the small-unit deployment of drone swarms.

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