Engineers and students at the Naval Postgraduate School in Southern California are building drones, launching systems, and the necessary software to create a force of up to fifty unmanned aircraft capable of dogfighting. That would add a new layer to drone warfare, where drones capably engage one another.
In the wildest dreams of Assistant Professor Timothy Chung, his drone squadron will battle drone teams from other schools and military branches in a tournament to see who has created the best solution.
Now, before you go Top Gun crazy on us, Chung's team is focused on swarms of small drones. These drones will work in tandem, something that today's drones are unable to accomplish. Seeing as the Naval Postgraduate School is laser-focused on keeping the U.S. military ahead of the competition, this project is many years away from real-world battlegrounds.
Reflecting on the limitations of these prototypes, drones are currently launched either by hand or by a contraption fashioned from PVC Pipe and bungie cord. The drones are battery operated, but life is short for the potential combatants. For example, if each of the drones was launched by hand, the first few would be out of juice by the time the last few were going airborne. Technical questions are book-ended by personnel concerns as well. In order to create a solution that fits into a budget, Chung and his team must find out how many people would be required to launch, operate and maintain the swarms. If the project proves incapable of scaling, it's as good as dead.
That then, is the idea behind Chung's 2015 drone dogfighting tournament. He wants his team to do battle against similar groups doing research for the Air Force and others. Once accomplished, Chung will have created a huge knowledge pool for the U.S. military to draw from. This will enable the development and implementation of the most efficient, scalable, cost-effective, and combat ready drone swarms then possible.