US Navy testing terrifying LOCUST drones that work together to rain destruction

15 Apr 2015

In the near future, those who find themselves the target of the US Navy could be attacked by a swarm of miniature drones as part of a new programme being developed called LOCUST.

Standing for Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology, the LOCUST drones are being developed as a means of firing off a number of the craft from a multi-tubed platform that could release as many as 30 at a time when fully operational.

The LOCUST drones are being developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), with its press release saying the programme would allow for those on the receiving end of the drone strike to be overwhelmed.

Equally impressive or scary, depending on which side of the attack you’re on, is the drones’ ability to act autonomously without instruction from the ground as they work together to wipe out everything that they deem a target.

LOCUST drone taking off

A LOCUST drone taking off from its launch pod. Image via ONR

So far, the ONR has shown successful testing of this autonomy with nine drones, but the team developing the LOCUST drones are obviously attempting to ease fears of a Skynet-like drone army by saying that they will always be operated and monitored by human operators.

“This level of autonomous swarming flight has never been done before,” said ONR programme manager Lee Mastroianni. “UAVs that are expendable and reconfigurable will free manned aircraft and traditional weapon systems to do more, and essentially multiply combat power at decreased risk to the warfighter.”

What will no doubt appeal to those in the accounting department of the US Navy is the estimates that show that a fleet of hundreds of drones would work out as being more cost-effective than a current human-operated fighter jet.

A locust swarm image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic