The U.S. Navy is testing a new type of drone — or, to be precise, a new way of launching and coordinating them. The Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology program, or LOCUST, packs small, disposable drones into a rocket launcher-like mechanism. Once fired out like giant winged bullets, the drones glide through the air and begin communicating with one another, eventually flying in formation.
"This level of autonomous swarming flight has never been done before," said Lee Mastroianni, LOCUST's manager at the Office of Naval Research. "UAVs that are expendable and reconfigurable will free manned aircraft and traditional weapon systems to do more."
Small drones like these Coyotes can't carry much ordinance, but they can keep an eye on things, track movement and interfere with low-flying aircraft. Even better, they're cheap. Next year should see swarms of 30 being demonstrated, after which the system may begin testing for actual integration with Navy systems.