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Are New Drones As Smart as Pilots?

Written by on Monday, April 16th, 2012

Insects are often described as operating in a hivemind. While each individual insect is inconsequential and unintelligent, that insect can send signals to other creates in its hive. When hundreds of other insects receive the signal and act in unison to defeat a common threat, it’s easy to see the potential devastating effect of hive creatures in the animal kingdom.

Mankind is just beginning to harness that same type of cooperative swarm reaction time with drone technology. Boeing has successfully completed flight tests of several Scaneagle UAVs working in concert, much like insects in a hivemind. Together, several drones managed to act as a team to identify and prepare to destroy a target — all without any human input whatsoever.

How does it all work? Basically, each drone has a specific job to do. For example, drones might be charged with the task of scanning a battlefield in search of potential threats. When an area has been cleared, the drone conveys that information to all other drones in the network so that there will not be any unnecessary overlap. The drones then create self-generating waypoints based on this data to scan new parts of the battlefield, all the while adjusting its course to avoid cialis online best price overlap based on new information.

This system allows for a nearly unprecedented level of cooperation between aircraft. Whenever one drone detects something, all other drones immediately become aware of it and react accordingly. Essentially, this allows drones to act intelligently, emulating a level of decision-making skill on par with basic human intelligence.

That drawback has always been the weakness of artificial intelligence. Thus far, autonomous systems lack any real ability to create or react in innovative ways. Boeing’s drone system is so advanced, however, that it can react to many battlefield variables and make the same choices that a trained pilot would make.

This has incredible implications for the future of drone technology. If this type of system could be enhanced and perfected, the US could launch truly autonomous drones that work together for search-and-rescue or reconnaissance missions,  without soaking up valuable man hours.

The one major disadvantage to this technology is that removing the human component can be seriously detrimental in certain missions. Relying on a program to distinguish the difference between combatant and civilian could potentially result in the loss of innocent lives. More than likely, these swarm drones will be limited to simple search-and-rescue and other non-lethal objectives.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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