Excerpted from CNET:
MONTEREY, Calif.--Imagine an aerial dogfight of epic proportions: Fifty aircraft on a side, each prowling the sky for advantage over dozens of adversaries.
If Timothy Chung has his way, such a battle could take place over Southern California by 2015. But before you worry that war is coming to American soil, you should know that Chung's vision is really about a high-tech game of Capture the Flag played by as many as a hundred small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles playing their role in a grand challenge of an experiment.
Chung is an assistant professor in the Systems Engineering department at the Naval Postgraduate School here, and one of his long-term projects is figuring out ways to help the U.S. military maintain an advantage in a world where aerial drones have dropped so much in price and complexity that there is substantial concern our enemies could soon have the ability to use them as weapons against us in combat.
That's why Chung's Advanced Robotics Systems Engineering Lab -- ARSENL for short -- has been working for some time now on developing a swarm of low-cost, lightweight autonomous flying vehicles known as Aerial Battle Bots (see video below) that are designed to work together against a common foe.
Already, Chung and his interns and master's students -- have pieced together a small swarm of about a dozen UAVs -- essentially commodity radio-controlled flying machines called Unicorn that have been retrofitted with onboard computers and other gear in order to take their places in the larger group. He hopes that by this August, he and his team will be able to get the vehicles flying and be able to start experimenting with getting them working together, as well as facing off.
Back in Chung's lab, he explained that as he and his students work toward his eventual goal of putting opposing swarms of battling UAVs in the skies, they've realized that though the Unicorns can be launched by hand, it's wouldn't be at all practical to require a team to get 50 of them up in the air that way.
That's because the vehicles have short-lived batteries, and by the time the 50th was airborne, the first would probably already be ready to fall back to Earth.
But that's no problem. One of his students, it turns out, has devised a launching mechanism made out of PVC pipe and bungie cords that could be set up in advance and used to quickly get dozens of the UAVs up and flying.
Lots more pictures here.