Drone swarms support Royal Marines in UK trials

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A range of autonomous systems, operating underwater, on land and in the sky, have been used by the Royal Marines Commandos during experimental exercises.

The uncrewed systems were trialled in training raids, on a number of complex ‘adversary’ positions such as missile and radar installations, in Cumbria and Dorset.

In a first for UK Defence, a group of six medium-heavy lift drones were operated in one autonomously controlled swarm from a single ground control station.

The drones were tasked with tactically re-supplying commandos with everything from ammunition for the assaulting troops, through to blood for combat medics.

Royal Marines have carried out experimental exercises with swarms of drones

Furthermore, the swarm demonstrated flexibility and switched roles to conduct reconnaissance missions to provide intelligence for commando raids ashore and at sea against a hostile target, when launched from RFA Mounts Bay.

The autonomous systems also worked together, being tasked independently to find, and identify enemy targets, accurately using their range of increasingly powerful sensors and target acquisition algorithms.

The trials – named Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 – are the latest in a series of experimental exercises that have developed ways in which the UK Commando Force will operate in the future, putting an emphasis on human and machines teaming closely together to gain a battlefield advantage.

First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, said: “Only by continued experimentation with the latest technology and innovation can we properly prepare our people for the challenges of the future.

“Autonomous Advance Force 4.0 is testing just how hybrid forces can operate on the battlefield, with elite Royal Marine Commandos enhancing their capabilities with the use of drone swarms.”

As well as drones taking to the skies, autonomous systems operated underwater, on the water and over land during the trials

The aim is to embed autonomous systems on the front line to support commando forces on the battlefield. These experiments are designed to scrutinise tactics and develop knowledge of how the drones can and cannot be used.

Colonel Chris Haw, the officer in charge of the experiments, said: “This has been yet another enormously important step forward in Royal Navy autonomy and particularly Commando Force transformation; I have seen phenomenal progress through this series of trials over the past two years.

“But we must always we must always remember that this tech is there to enhance commando excellence, not to replace it.”

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