Dozens of small off-the-shelf drones sit idle while program officials conduct system checks to prepare them for flight preceding Network Integration Evaluation 16.1. (U.S. Army photo by John Hamilton)
By John Hamilton
WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Sept. 30, 2015) — In this season’sNetwork Integration Evaluation, or NIE, taking place on White Sands Missile Range, or WSMR, and Fort Bliss, Texas, coordinated units of remotely-operated and automated aircraft will be used to represent a possible threat on tomorrow’s battlefields.
Members of the Targets Management Office with U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation, or PEO STRI, are using off-the-shelf quad and octocopters and flying them in groups. The endeavor is part of an U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, or ATEC, program to study possible use, effectiveness and countermeasures for the deployment of large numbers of synchronized drone aircraft.
“ATEC is our customer, they tasked us to come out and look at swarming, the variations and the payloads we can apply to this,” said James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, PEO STRI. “We saw this as a threat that wasn’t being addressed and ATEC agreed.”
While drones are seeing expanded use, with many different countries building, deploying, and selling large airplane-sized drones for military purposes, small-scale drones are still gaining a foothold, mostly due to the technical limitations involved. That technology is expected to improve, and the small-scale drone become more viable as a possible weapon, and it’s that preparation for the future that is driving the swarming project.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” Story said. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”