Electronic Design
Day of the LOCUST

Day of the LOCUST

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.

1. ONR’s tube-launched LOCUST drones unfold after they are launched and they fly autonomously, cooperating with each other.

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.

2. The formation of tiny white dots in the figure above are LOCUST drones flying together.

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).

3. Multiple drones provide redundancy as well as different perspectives.

ONR has a variety of use cases from search-and rescue to offensive and defensive augmentation. 

TAGS: Robotics
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