Blue Bear Systems has proven its latest swarming drone technology, operating 20 fixed wing drones to form a collaborative heterogeneous swarm, conducting Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) operations.
Image courtesy Blue Bear
Building on its 12-drone swarm, previously demonstrated earlier in July, the latest heterogenous swarm consisted of five different types and sizes of fixed wing Blue Bear drones, including Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) fixed wing Ghost/Modular Ghost UAS, conventional fixed wing Red Kite UAS, conventional fixed wing Cobra UAS and smaller hand launched Flat Pack UAS.
Across the swarm, six different types of payload from five different companies were integrated through Blue Bear plug and play open architectures and SmartConnectTM technology. Payloads and payload support came from Plextek DTS, IQHQ, Airbus, RFEL, Durham University, and Blue Bear. The drones flew simultaneous Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) cooperative tasks, with Blue Bear collaborative autonomy, ensuring they all contributed to overall mission goals.
The swarm of 20 was commanded by three operators in Blue Bear’s Mobile Mission Command System (MCCS) whilst simultaneously handling different, collaborative payload analysis tasks.
To further reduce the burden on the operator, Blue Bear’s Artificial Intelligence platform (BBAI) was running on a number of the UAS Swarm, and processing sensor data on the aircraft before sending only relevant data back to the ground.
Blue Bear Airspace Deconfliction Layer (ADL) technology was running in the background to aid the automatic deconfliction of BVLOS flights within the swarm, and to track the presence of any third party aircraft.
Ian Williams-Wynn, MD, said: “Demonstrating BVLOS operations of a 20-drone swarm shows how far we have come in the 18 months this project has been running. I am so proud of the whole team who have put a phenomenal amount of effort in to deliver the UK’s most complex autonomous air vehicle trial ever!”
Throughout the two weeks of trials BB regularly operated swarms of 10 to 14 collaborative UAS, and flew more than 220 UAS sorties, building up to be able to operate a 20 UAS swarm. The trials concluded with a multi-vehicle ‘button click’ to launch simultaneous take off and mission deployment of four Ghost UAS (See video) in 30knt winds.
This work was fast-tracked with £2.5 million funding through DASA’s Many Drones Make Light Work competition within Dstl’s Autonomy Programme.