March 25, 2015

Commanding the Swarm

By Paul Scharre

Today’s uninhabited vehicles are largely tele-operated, with a person piloting or driving the vehicle remotely, but tomorrow’s won’t be. They will incorporate increasing autonomy, with human command at the mission level. This will enable one person to control multiple vehicles simultaneously, bringing greater combat power to the fight with the same number of personnel. Scaling up to large swarms, however, will require even more fundamental shifts in the command and control paradigm.

The Naval Postgraduate School is working on a 50-on-50 swarm vs. swarm aerial dogfight, and researchers at Harvard have built a swarm of over athousand simple robots working together to create simple formations. As the number of elements in a swarm increases, human control must shift increasingly to the swarm as a whole, rather than micromanaging individual elements.

Read the full op-ed at War on the Rocks.

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