China launches record-breaking UAV swarm

The China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC) claims to have set a new record for the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying in a swarm, the state-owned Xinhua news agency quoted the corporation as saying.

The 11 June news report states that the swarm comprised 119 UAVs, breaking CETC’s previous record swarm of 67 UAVs. Xinhua did not mention when or where the event took place.

The size of the mini UAV swarm is greater than that trialled by the US Air Force in October 2016 when three Boeing F/A-18 Hornets deployed a swarm of 103 Perdix micro UAVs, which the US Department of Defense noted was one of the world’s largest micro UAV swarms to date.

CETC published a video in 2016 of its fixed-wing UAV swarm prototype, which shows the UAVs in a co-ordinated launch from the ground. The corporation said that the UAVs were flying ad hoc networks, sensing and avoiding collision, and demonstrating autonomous group control.

The 2016 video also indicates that the development is aimed at enhancing capabilities in the fields of collaborative intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, distributed wide area surveillance, and saturation attack.

A CETC engineer was quoted by Xinhua as saying that UAV swarms will become “a disruptive force” that will “change the rules of the game”.

In the United States a number of programmes are being run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop concepts and applications of UAV/ unmanned aerial systems (UAS) swarms.