The Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) LOCUST (LOw-Cost Unmannded aerial vehicle Swarming Technology) test system can rapidly launch up to 30 cooperative drones (Fig. 1). The tube-launched drones unfold after they are ejected. The tube approach has a small footprint and it allows a large number of drones to be moved and launched quickly.
The 1-m-long drones are from BAE Systems. The Sensintel Coyote drone is designed to be launched from a tube that matches a standard A-size sonobuoy. The front, rear, and rudder wings fold out after the UAV is ejected from the tube. A propeller on the rear also unfolds. The battery-powered drone can fly for 90 minutes at 60 knots. It has a flight ceiling of 20,000 ft. The Coyote can transmit full-motion video up to 20 nm using a 2 W S-band transmitter.
Watch a video on the drones, curated by Engineering TV, below:
The drones fly in a cooperative swarm using wireless communication to coordinate their efforts. For now, it is a matter of flying in formation (Fig. 2). Multiple tests have been done recently using the Coyotes and multi-tube launcher.
In the future, the actions of individual and groups of drones can vary based on their objectives and what their sensors provide. A drone that detects an object like a target may have other drones search nearby areas or provide a more detailed examination of the spotted target (Fig. 3).
ONR has a variety of use cases from search-and rescue to offensive and defensive augmentation.