Creepy-Cool Video: Tiny UAVs Flying in Formation

In case you guys haven’t seen this video, it’s awesome. It shows a swarm of tiny quadrotor UAVs flying in numerous formations, performing figure eights with each other and even flying around obstacles. Talk about sense and avoid!

The little drones (monsters?) were developed and programmed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) lab. The nano-copters were built by KMel robotics, according to the video.

Can’t you imagine a swarm of tiny drones like these being launched at an enemy by a small infantry unit? They could be carried in a backpack, controlled by a laptop and sent to spy on a nearby enemy and even explode on any targets they spot, similar to what the Army’s Switchblade UAV can do now. They’d be hard to spot until they were on top of the target and given their size and numbers, they’d be damn tough to defend against.

Scary to think about; almost as scary as this.

Click through  the jump to watch the video.

  • Mike

    that’s “…further potential applications…”

  • Uncle Bill

    Joining the Luddite contingent I don’t see any use whatsoever for this technology, it won’t do anything existing tech won’t do and it’s just a conspiracy to bilk the taxpayer with ever more expensive stuff. I could do more damage with an M1 Garand than a million of these stupid things. :)

  • Andrew

    If they can carry the explosive content of a modern 25mm/40mm grenade, then no, you can’t.

    • UAVgeek

      any 200-300 watt (hovering power) quad can easily carry a few 40mm grenades (1/2 lb each)

    • aaaa

      put some plasic explosive and it would be devistating to anyone in the area of the lil bug.

    • tiger

      All they need to do is fly into a jet intake……….

  • Mike

    Just the immediate possibilities left me in awe…the further potenial applications scare me sh*tless!

  • YourNameHere

    Need about a million of these with 5lbs of C4 strapped to bottom. Forget about mortars and artillery, Seek and destroy drones should be developed aggressively.

    • Jeff

      I’m thinking more like a cluster munition that would open before impact and scatter over a field a bunch of these types of drones that would then seek targets. Even if they only had a small explosive capable of taking out individual enemies, that’d still be worthwhile. A smart cluster bomb.

  • Terence

    This is huge! The benefits of these babies takes surveillance and even Special Forces capabilities to a whole new level.

  • bob

    everything shown in the video only works within that room in which there are multiple beacons posted all around. In other words none of what was shown would work outside of that particular, specially outfitted room. This will be possible in the future but what is shown in the video is misleeding.

    • OK3wye

      If you learned to spell you might have more credibility.

    • elmondohummus

      Yes, that’s true, but it’s only a proof of concept. It shows that if you can establish valid references to follow, the drones can do the formations indicated.

      Who’s to say that this can’t be replicated with slightly larger drones using GPS out in the real world? I see no real obstacles in the way, only the standard engineering work to get it done. There’s no problem at the conceptual level, only the Devil’s-in-the-Details issues that engineers are more than competent to tackle.

      Saying that this is restricted to the room it occurred in is a bad argument. Of course this level is, but nothing *restricts* it to such an environment.

      • bob

        that’s why I said

        “This will be possible in the future but what is shown in the video is misleeding.”

        the people that actually carried out this project said themselves that it was very restricted to that specific room because the sensors give very high accuracy/resolution information on the orientation/locations of each of the drones. The drones actually have cameras on them that track many light beacons set around the room, much like how a Wii controller works.

  • Sanem

    the sound is extremely scary, reminds me of a swarm of kiler bees :s

    equiped with a grenade would make them extremely useful in ground combat, they can go up, spot a target and dive into it, or fly into buildings to clear out rooms

    the hive mind thing would be most useful on UCAVs, in air combat. they’d fly extremely complex but coordinated patterns, constantly surrounding enemies and setting up cross fires, as you would in chess, performing maneuvers a human would not survive

  • Sanem

    they said they could make little drones fly patterns, they succeeded, how is that misleeding?

    if you want misleeding videos, look for the F-35 or the LCS, they cost a LOT more and perform a LOT less

    • bob

      it’s obviously misleading (thank you okwye) because everyone else that’s commenting is very excited about it. The stuff shown in this video (multiple robots being commanded around by a centralized computer with total knowledge of the coordinates of each robot via an array of room mounted sensors) has been done for over a decade. It’s nevertheless exciting at first glance because they do not mention in the video that none of this would work outside of that unique, sensor equipped room.

  • Lance

    Seen this on Flashpoint the other night quite a cute mini UAV.

  • JackBlack

    Minority report in the making, next spider armed robots.

  • KSki

    That in no was a faked video. That is one of the coolest yet scariest things I’ve scene. Next they’ ll all carry small weapons and go Terminator on us.

  • Jazz ism

    Save weight and control by tablet is just as capable and more mobile.

  • Jazz ism

    Why a laptop? Control by tablet would save weight to add more mobility and be just as capable.

    • nraddin

      The CPU, radio power and battery life in a laptop are significantly higher power than in a tablet. It’s just a prototype, I am sure that as this develops into usable product they will design better control interfaces for them.

  • John

    Wow! A small suicide drone with a small shaped charge warhead that can land on the head of an individual and blow itself up! It might even penetrate through helmets and into the brain with a small delayed charge. Mini RPG’s to the skull of any enemy! What a concept. At least that is my idea of one of its useful applications.

    • dddd

      Haha that’s what I have been thinking for a long time. I think this is clearly where warfare is headed. Possible obstacles: handling in high winds, power sources, bandwidth limits, autonomy…

  • Snake Oil Baron

    I can’t see the video but I’ve seen things like these recently is this the ones that construct a sculpture by stacking bricks, one at a time in a cooperative fashion?

    Position a large number of these on rooftops in an enemy capital with explosive charges. In the hours before an invasion you have them deliver their packages to electrical transmission towers, certain bridges, command and control locations… The bigger the target the more packages you send it via pre selected waypoints. After the chaos starts and they are out of bombs, have them loiter around certain regions like and buzz anyone going into or out of government buildings. They won’t know for certain that they are unarmed and it will at the very least be annoying–have them play fingernail on blackboard noise while at it. None of these are certain to be useful or practical tasks but they are just a few things one could imagine small collaborative UAVs after thinking about it for a few seconds.

    • Snake Oil Baron

      OMG, I just saw the video. Pretty fantastic. I’ve seen one quadroter project where the drones can flip sideways and stick to a wall. If they were designed to drop of anything from sticky bombs to countless forms of electronics, there are all sorts of ways one could alter a theatre of operations to favor you.

  • Black Owl

    Neat… now lets put a small caliber weapon on it, a camera, a tiny explosive or use teams of them with various combinations of these. I sincerely hope no one ever decides to invent an AI with a strong survival program.

  • TLAM Strike

    Someone get me a fly swatter…

  • amos

    I keep thinking about the statement: If you can see the enemy, then they can see you.
    Does anyone think we’re the only ones smart enough to develop these things?

  • Rob

    easy to do computer organized maneuvers indoors. Try outside where there are naturally occurring swirls of wind & currents. Something tells me in first rain you would see sparks and down they fall.

  • Jacob

    I was going to say something to the extent of “Skynet is coming!!” but then I watched the video and it didn’t seem quite so funny.

    • elmondohummus

      You’re not the only one. (*Shudders*).

  • klub

    A swarm of these should be sufficient to protect a helicopter from RPG attack during takeoff and landing. One drone could quickly move into the rocket’s path and sacrifice itself.

  • Sanem

    “Minority report in the making, next spider armed robots.”

    believe it or not, a lot of the technology in Minority Report is based on actual scienctific expectations, so yes, spider bots are coming…

    but forget about them and PreCrime, that’s kid’s stuff compared to AI and nanotech and whatever comes after that, and I’m talking about 2 decades from now

  • srby

    They seem to be about the size of a skeet. Where’s my shotgun?

    • RBlake

      This seemed like a sporting clay moment! I agree

      • ziv

        On report or simul, your choice, but it only counts if you knock it down, not push it around!

  • Robert

    IT IS THE FIGHT OF THE AIR BUGS.

    GREAT PRODUCT WITH LIMITED RANGE!!!!

    ARM THEM AND USE THEM AGAINST THE TALIBAN!!!!!

    PATHFINDER22554

    • Prodozul

      I LIKE WRITING IN CAPS TOO!

  • Robert

    THIS IS A GRAT PRODUCT!!!!!!

    NOW WE CAN ARM THEM TO EXPLODE

    IT WILL BE THE NEW AIR BUG TORA, TORA, TORA AGAINST THE TALIBAN!!!!!

    JUST IMAGINE THEY ARE BEHIND A WALL AND THE BUGS FLY THERE AND TERMINATE THEM AND ALL FROM YOUR LAP TOP OR DESK TOP.

    WE CAN EVEN HAVE PLAY MUSIC AS THEY DO THEIR TORA, TORA, TORA AGAINST OUR ADVERSARIES THE TALIBAN!!!!!!

    PATHFINDER22554

  • PJD

    I can imagine how badly the US military and governemnt would screw up a program to produce these things. They’d probably end up costing $250 million each and be limited to a production run of 20 thanks to numerous glaring faults.. Think B-2 bomber, F-22 and F-35 style disasters but on a smaller scale.

  • morty

    If You haven’t herd of the Terminator theory You should check it out, I’m not saying It could happen any time soon but its cool

    • KnufreDoy

      No not at anytime yo, but it does seem inevitable. If something like that is possible it will be sometime before a computer collective can take over all out automated machines to coordinate the extinction of the human race. Maybe in a couple of hundred years or so.. If the sun dun blow up or we get slammed with a meteor..

  • Raraavis

    Will they be programed to balk at orders to kill it’s own citizens if given by a corrupt government. No peaceful protest movement stands a chance against robot soldiers.

  • Lightbringer

    Imagine four foot wide versions of these things. Hundreds of them. Dropped from helicoptors. Armed with assault rifles. Swarming, acting autonomously, attacking anything on the ground that’s armed. We’re maybe 15-20 years away from that.

  • JRL

    And unlike stealth tactical aircraft costing in excess of a $100M a pop, these adorable little one-shot death dealers can be produced almost anywhere, and will be cheap enough for any highly motivated group to buy in useful quantities

    Even Al Quaeda can have an air force, now!

    • tiger

      If a flock of geese can put a Jet into the Hudson River; Why not a flock of these?

  • nraddin

    Sarah Connor: Did you see this war?
    Kyle Reese: No. I grew up after. In the ruins… starving… hiding from H-K’s.
    Sarah Connor: H-K’s?
    Kyle Reese: Hunter-Killers: patrol machines built in automated factories. Most of us were rounded up, put into camps for orderly disposal.

  • Ben

    And one benefit is that they might even be mistaken by the enemy, at first, for a swarm of flying insects. This would be stealth by deception.

  • Seeker

    End-Time Symbolism, anyone???!!!
    “And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.”

    Aircraft “Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth; they were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those of mankind who have not the seal of God upon their foreheads; they were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion, when it stings a man. And in those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will long to die, and death will fly from them.”

    “In appearance the locusts were like horses arrayed for battle; on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; they had scales like iron breastplates, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. They have tails like scorpions, and stings, and their power of hurting men for five months lies in their tails. They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.” (Revelation 9:1-11 RSV)

    • Skyepapa

      “The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.” — Douglas Adams

  • tiger

    1984 And Big brother is getting closer……..

  • tony

    Put this sense and avoid technology in the Moller Sky Car and we’ll be flying to work.

    • KnufreDoy

      For sure, All electric motors with lightwiegt battery systems could easly carry people in around with the quad copter stability.. Weather would be a problem though.. Only use on good weather days.. Lots of problems to solve for sure..

  • i can’t wait for all the upcoming college pranks

  • chris

    This reminds me of space invaders im shocked any one has not made the connection.

  • chuck

    Imagine these but five times larger hundred maybe thousand carring, missiles, bombs, ECM jammers, attacking an air defense system or ship defense system, they could be controled by an aircraft, or ship or even better land control station. They would attack in waves until the enemy exhaused is AD then the real bad boys would attack, no need for F-35 or F-22 just these and there capability to swamp any D or Offensive systems. I wonder is anybody out there listening or is it just me who see hugh savings in the DOD, forget big name weapons system go for the gold small is better and cheaper who cares if we lost a hundred a thousand there are thousand more ready to go. DOD are you there knock knock

  • CoCowboy692000

    Well, I had read about a swarm technology program over a year ago. It’s a program much like this called Constellation and they were using a plane called Dominator I think is the name. They were going to fly 100 Dominators in a swarm. This swarm tech is the new thing – every piece of our hardware talks to the others… Anyway, Constellation each carried 3 bombs weighing 100 lbs and could fly for days… THAT’s serious! But I knew that they had these micro’s being developed too. These will be kewl too, but limited damage can be expected. They’re just to small. Think of it in terms of a sheep dog taking on a herd of cattle…

  • Steve B

    No use? A few warheads full of these opening above an airfield full of nanocopters programmed to find and fly into jet engine intakes? Wouldn’t even need explosive payload, just made a little harder than turbine blades

  • greyghost313

    does the phrase “hordes of locusts:” sound eerily prophetic?

  • Pro bono

    Resistance is futile…prepare to be assimilated =:-[

  • constantin

    Last year I saw the drones in complete presentation of a german company microdrone.de with 100 real life applications…..Still the army is reluctant to test the potential for tactical ISR……and I dont know why! The sky is the limit …I guess.

  • Sharyl Theden

    What we can see on the video is a total revolution in my opinion, with helicopters like that army can save milions of dolars and probably human lifes too, we saw clearly on the video how they can avoid obstacles and are fast, a great work from engineers!

    Sharyl Theden
    retirement residences Ontario

  • hdryden

    Should have read mitigate EMP with shielding

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