These automated flying robots are tiny, cheap and they do not mind being smashed. In large groups, they can save your life or become the most deadly weapon since the appearance of the machine gun. What do you imagine when you think about an unmanned aerial vehicle? A modest toy with remote control and propellers or a large unmanned military aircraft? Very soon these images can become quite different: drones become smaller, cheaper, can automatically assemble into groups by hundreds or even thousands, like bees or birds.

They are called a swarm – gather enough drone together, and they will be able to surpass people in many ways. They could save your life or become a deadly and powerful force on the battlefield.

Why do drone drones in general matter?

First, on the battlefield, they could surpass the weapons and technologies that the military used for decades. Think about this: in a crowded city, a group of tiny quadrocopters could gather for espionage. Tank battalions will be captured by miniature unmanned snipers, attacking from all sides simultaneously. In the sea, thousands of small drones can fly into a warship and attack it; Many can be knocked down, but others will remain, destroy the radar and leave the ship defenseless.

The swarm does not have a leader or commander; A swarm is a self-organizing system in which all elements are equal. Swarming allows unmanned aerial vehicles to effectively conduct reconnaissance on the ground or fly together without encountering. And only one operator is needed to control the entire swarm at once.

Roy is implacable. One missile can bring down a drones, but a swarm can lose dozens of members and continue moving. Air defense with a limited supply of missiles can be overloaded with enough enemies.

Soon drones will swarm in many other situations, from rock concerts to farmyards.

So, we will observe swarms of drones in everyday life?

That's right. Almost observed.

At the beginning of this year, 300 drones gathered in the American flag on Lady Gaga's show to light the night sky. Intel is promoting its Shooting Star swarms as an alternative to fireworks. The Chinese company eHang set the record for the biggest swarm in the spectacular New Year show, in which 1000 drones formed a map of China and a Chinese symbol of blessing.

Roy will be able to check pipelines, chimneys, power lines and industrial installations cheaply and quickly.

Swarms of drones can even live on a farm. They can find plant diseases and help in the distribution of water or spray pesticides in the right places, working cooperatively and covering large areas on a tight schedule.

Nikolaos Papanicolopoulos of the Center for Distributed Robotics at the University of Minnesota is working on solar-powered unmanned aircraft that will work together to survey large tracts of farmland at a low price.

"Their tasks will be to quickly detect nitrogen shortages, plant diseases and proper water resources management," says Papanicolopoulos.

What else?

While drones were used in rescue operations for years, observational swarms of smaller versions could save even more lives.

In the laboratory of air microscopes at Delft University make a swarm of "pocket drones", each of which can fit in the palm of your hand. They fly in confined spaces, in buildings that are too badly damaged for human rescuers to investigate, and can search for survivors after earthquakes and other disasters.

Scientists from the University of Loughborough created a system that helps in the search and rescue of mountain areas, which uses a team of 10 small hand-held drone. Drones are equipped with thermal imaging cameras to easily find lost climbers. Communicating with each other, they guarantee that the entire territory will be covered.

What military swimmers are developing swarms – and why?

Many countries are developing swarm technologies. The USA, for example, recently launched 103 small drone Perdix from F / A-18 aircraft. They weigh several hundred grams and come from dispensers, commonly used for signal lights or distracting flashes. 3D-printed drones Perdix disposable and are designed to suppress enemy air defense, acting as bait or silencers.

The US Navy also aims to create a swarm of drones, the cost of which will be less than that of a rocket. They develop software that allows you to separate part of the swarm for certain missions or connect new drones to the swarm quickly and imperceptibly.

Another player is China, a long time leader in the field of small drones. The Chinese company DJI owns about 70% of the world market, and now the Chinese military see what can be done with the help of these new technologies. At the December aerospace exhibition, the state-owned company CETC showed a video with 70 unmanned aerial vehicles flying simultaneously. Drones flew out of the formation and "participated" in the reconnaissance operation. Such drone can also carry out a massive attack on the missile launcher of the enemy. They attack from all sides simultaneously, there are too many of them, so that they can be protected from them.

Perhaps the most ambitious plan is the US Marine Corps project. He plans to create the first wave of drones, which will be used on land, at sea and in the air to search for people on the beach, reconnaissance, detect enemy positions and possible attacks. Roy will also be able to provide protection against swarms of enemy unmanned aircraft. To explore this option, the Corps creates strategic games in which the swarm fights with the swarm.

These small drones can be spies and scouts. The DARPA Agency provides that every foot soldier will have his own swarm for reconnaissance, especially in urban areas and inside buildings.

"Two hundred and fifty small airborne aircraft can take six city blocks," says Stephen Crumpton of Swarm Systems. A swarm can potentially self-organize in a sub-location to deliver useful information, for example, about a threat to a position.

What will be the future of swarm drones?

Now the technology of swarm drones is in its infancy. But it is developing rapidly.

In theory, a swarm can destroy any existing weapon and provide enough accurate firepower to cause large-scale destruction. His influence can surpass the appearance of the machine gun: owning his own swarm of drones will become the king of the battlefield. The war will be won by those who will have a bigger and better swarm.

But the battlefield is not the only place where swarms will appear. In fact, they will one day live with us.

In the long term, if researchers at Harvard's Vissa Institute are right, small swarming drones will become as much a part of our environment as insects. Their RoboBee project involves the development of tiny drones no larger than a paper clip and weighing ten grams. Thousands of robots will be used to monitor weather, observations or even pollination of plants, if required.

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