Georgia Tech & US Navy Conduct Drone Swarm Dogfights
” Aerial dogfighting began more than a century ago in the skies over Europe with propeller-driven fighter aircraft carried aloft on wings of fabric and wood. An event held recently in southern California could mark the beginning of a new chapter in this form of aerial combat.
In what may have been the first aerial encounter of its kind, researchers from the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Naval Postgraduate School recently pitted two swarms of autonomous aircraft against one another over a military test facility. While the friendly encounter may not have qualified as an old-fashioned dogfight, it provided the first example of a live engagement between two swarms of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), and allowed the two teams to demonstrate different combat tactics in flight.”
” “The ability to engage a swarm of threat UAVs with another autonomous swarm is an area of critical research for defense applications,” said Don Davis, division chief of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Branch of the Georgia Tech Research Institute. “This experiment demonstrated the advances made in collaborative autonomy and the ability of a team of unmanned vehicles to execute complex missions. This encounter will serve to advance and inform future efforts in developing autonomous vehicle capabilities.”
Each team launched ten small propeller-driven Zephyr aircraft, though two of the aircraft experienced technical issues at launch and were unable to compete, resulting in a 10 versus 8 competition. Although the UAVs were physically identical, their computers used different autonomy logic, collaboration approaches, and communications software developed by the two institutions. GPS tracking allowed each aircraft to know the location of the others for this demonstration. In the future, this information will be provided by on-board cameras, radars, and other sensors and payloads.”