* NewScientist.com news service
* Justin Mullins
The skies above future battlefields are likely to be filled with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) monitoring the action and homing in on enemy targets. But how do you control a sky full of UAVs, particularly when communications links with the ground are patchy?
Perhaps you don't have to. Yossi Ben-Asher and colleagues at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, say UAVs can control themselves instead.
Their idea is for a swarm of UAVs to create its own communications network and swap the information needed to calculate flight paths and avoid collisions. This not only eliminates the need for constant communication with the ground, it can also be used to make the aircraft swarm together, like a flock of birds.
This swarming behaviour can then be used to mount more effective attacks, the team says. The UAVs could monitor a target and decide for themselves how best to attack it, based on the position of each aircraft and the weapons it is carrying.
The patent application stops short of explaining how the final decision to engage is taken. Presumably somebody on the ground has to give the go-ahead. But how long before technology like this makes the military think it can dispense with even this step?