Zachary Kallenborn, a homeland security consultant, specializing in unmanned systems, drone swarms, homeland security, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and WMD terrorism speaking to US media House Forbes has said that 75-drone swarm capabilities demonstrated by the Indian Army could be Game-Changer for the offensive capabilities that could be used in possible future conflicts in the region by Indian Army.

Kallenborn noted several significant features of the demonstration. “The Indian Army appears to be using three types of UAV: a quadcopter probably for sensing, a six-rotor mothership drone, and the small quadcopters with explosives on them,” Kallenborn told. “National security discourse in the United States around drones often emphasizes a large homogenous swarm, but India’s work shows this is a mistake.”

So far U.S. efforts – like the Perdix demonstration of a swarm of 103 air-launched drones, and DARPA’s Gremlins swarm – have all used drone of a single type. A mix of drones with heavyweight carriers, reusable scouts with advanced sensors, and expendable attack drones may be more flexible and capable. Kallenborn also notes that the claim of an autonomous swarm is plausible, but it is not clear how much of this has been achieved so far.

“The question in my mind is how sophisticated the autonomous capabilities are,” says Kallenborn. “The announcer notes, in the beginning, the drones are programmed to carry out these attacks. What’s not clear is how well the system would function in an actual combat environment where the drones will need to adapt to rapid changes, a complex environment, and mobile targets. Notably, the targets used in the demonstration were all stationary.”

“The most critical aspect is academic: how do you design algorithms to manage the increasing complexity of the swarm? In terms of both more drones and different types of drones,” says Kallenborn. ”The challenge with drone swarms comes from how the drones communicate and coordinate their actions, which is primarily a programming problem.”

The Indian demonstration was a staged event and not an operational capability. But carrying out any sort of technology demonstration in front of a live audience is a risky business (especially with armed drones), and the fact that the Indian Army was confident enough to show off their swarm suggests it may not be long before such drones are used in action.

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