A team of Air Force Academy cadets received an award from Boeing earlier this month for their research on what future drone swarms could do, and how they could be controlled. The Boeing Tri-Service Academy Capstone Competition, an annual contest between the three service academies, required entrants to research ways to control independent swarms of unmanned aircraft systems. The Air Force team used computer simulations to test different configurations, created a custom stealth propeller for quadcopters that reduced noise, and demonstrated limited autonomy with three aircraft taking pictures, according to an Academy release. The Air Force on Tuesday released its flight path for small, unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS), which the service expects to one day be the primary source of surveillance. According to the flight plan, swarming will be a “key element” of future SUAS strategies. (See also: The Future of Drones and Keeping the Human Involved.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.