UK’s Dstl Trials Drone Swarm Technology

By Mike Ball / 03 Feb 2021
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Dstl drone swarming

The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has recently completed an exercise with a swarm of 20 drones in the largest collaborative military-focused evaluation of swarming unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the UK to date. The exercise was the culmination of Dstl’s Many Drones Make Light Work’ competition, which was funded under the Ministry of Defence’s Science and Technology Portfolio through the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).

The exercise, based at RAF Spadeadam in Cumbria, showcased the progress made in phase 3 of this drone swarm project, which was undertaken by an industry team led by Blue Bear Systems Research that included Plextek DTS, IQHQ, Airbus and Durham University. The scope of the contract was for an Integrated Concept Evaluation activity to explore the technical feasibility and military utility of a swarm of up to 20 small UAVs operating collaboratively.

The swarm consisted of five different types and sizes of fixed-wing drones, with different operational capabilities, together with six different payload types. Three operators in Blue Bear’s Mobile Command and Control System (MCCS) managed the entire swarm whilst simultaneously handling different, collaborative payload analysis tasks. The UAVs flew simultaneous Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) cooperative missions, with Blue Bear collaborative autonomy ensuring that all aircraft contributed to overall mission goals. Throughout the 2 weeks of trials, more than 220 sorties were undertaken.

Dstl’s Technical Authority for the project commented: “Dstl has been driving research in autonomous systems across different platforms and domains for many years. This is a significant step forward in our understanding of the capabilities of swarming drones and has been achieved through excellent collaboration across the MOD and with a number of small and medium enterprise partners. This 18 month collaboration has resulted in the demonstration of an operationally relevant capability and will inform and de-risk future choices and decisions about swarming drone capability.”

Watch a video about the drone swarm exercise below:


This article is based on a release originally authored by Dstl

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact