Blue Bear Systems' 20-drone swarm conducts BVLOS operations

Blue Bear Systems recently operated 20 fixed wing drones to form a collaborative heterogeneous swarm that conducted beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations.

The heterogeneous swarm built off of a 12-drone swarm that Blue Bear demonstrated in July. The latest heterogeneous swarm was made up of five different types and sizes of fixed wing Blue Bear drones, including Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) fixed wing Ghost/Modular Ghost UAS, conventional fixed wing Red Kite UAS, conventional fixed wing Cobra UAS and smaller hand launched Flat Pack UAS.

“Demonstrating BVLOS operations of a 20-drone swarm shows how far we have come in the 18 months this project has been running,” says Ian Williams-Wynn, MD.

“I am so proud of the whole team who have put a phenomenal amount of effort in to deliver the UK’s most complex autonomous air vehicle trial ever!”

Six different types of payload from five different companies were integrated into the swarm through Blue Bear plug and play open architectures and SmartConnectTM technology. Plextek DTS, IQHQ, Airbus, RFEL, Durham University, and Blue Bear all provided payloads and payload support. 

The drones flew simultaneous Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) cooperative tasks, with Blue Bear collaborative autonomy ensuring they all contributed to overall mission goals.

Three operators in Blue Bear’s Mobile Mission Command System (MCCS) commanded the swarm of 20, whilst simultaneously handling different, collaborative payload analysis tasks.

Blue Bear’s Artificial Intelligence platform (BBAI) was running on a number of the UAS Swarm, and processing sensor data on the aircraft before sending only relevant data back to the ground, which helped further reduce the burden on the operator.

To help automatic deconfliction of BVLOS flights within the swarm, and to track the presence of any third party aircraft, Blue Bear Airspace Deconfliction Layer (ADL) technology was running in the background.

Throughout the two weeks of trials, Blue Bear regularly operated swarms of 10 to 14 collaborative UAS. The company flew more than 220 UAS sorties, building up to be able to operate a 20 UAS swarm. The trials concluded with a multi-vehicle ‘button click’ to launch simultaneous take off and mission deployment of four Ghost UAS in 30knt winds.