#1097: MultiDrone

UAVs are getting smarter individually but there are still opportunities for cleverness in the ways they interact.

Today’s invention is a way to build larger autonomous aircraft by having conventional ones join up in flight. Each vehicle would have eg electromagnetic patches on the wingtips, enabling autonomous docking without ultraprecise manoeuvring.


As with migrating geese, this would help with fuel efficiency when flying long distances. In the event that such a swarm of vehicles were attacked, any damaged ones could be disengaged very rapidly and a new configuration automatically adopted.

This robustness could be further enhanced by having these machines duplicate each other’s gathered data, exchange fuel in flight and adapt their grouping shape and sizes to minimise detectability.


  1. It’s an old idea, DARPA et al are already working on it, e.g. from 2003 …


    The main reason is that you can have one remote pilot fly the whole swarm. At the moment it’s one pilot for each UAV, there’s no force multiplier unless you have swarming or autonomy – needless to say both options are being explored.


    • Actually Mik, swarming is an old idea but the article you kindly cite doesn’t talk about UAVs flying in a hard-docked formation ie as a single vehicle.

      Additional benefits of this include
      a) greatly simplified control for long sections of a mission and
      b) the potential to increase range as in a multi-stage rocket launch, where fuel-exhausted drones could be jettisoned before the payload engine even fires up.

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