The research from Oregon State University is said to be a significant step in deploying swarms of autonomous vehicles

Scarlett Evans, Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

February 15, 2024

2 Min Read
Drone in hand
Oregon State University, Karl Maasdam

Research from Oregon State University (OSU) has found a single operator could control more than 100 drones at once, without experiencing “an undue workload.”

OSU said the findings represent a “big step” toward efficiently and economically using swarms across use cases including firefighting and disaster response and even package delivery.

"We don't see a lot of delivery drones yet in the United States, but there are companies that have been deploying them in other countries," said Julie A. Adams, study co-author. “It makes business sense to deploy delivery drones at a scale, but it will require a single person be responsible for very large numbers of these drones.

“I’m not saying our work is a final solution that shows everything is OK, but it is the first step toward getting additional data that would facilitate that kind of a system.” 

The study was conducted as part of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s  OFFSET, (Offensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics) program.

Over four years, the team deployed swarms of up to 250 autonomous vehicles, including multi-rotor aerial drones and ground rovers, to gather information in “concrete canyon” urban surroundings. 

“The project required taking off-the-shelf technologies and building the autonomy needed for them to be deployed by a single human called the swarm commander,” said Adams. “That work also required developing not just the needed systems and the software, but also the user interface for that swarm commander to allow a single human to deploy these ground and aerial systems.”

Related:Drones Planned for Weeks-Long Fights at 70,000 Feet

A VR interface was also created for the project, which allows a user to control the swarm with high-level directions.

“The commanders weren’t physically driving each individual vehicle, because if you're deploying that many vehicles, they can't – a single human can’t do that,” Adams said. “The idea is that the swarm commander can select a play to be executed and can make minor adjustments to it, like a quarterback would in the NFL.

“The objective data from the trained swarm commanders demonstrated that a single human can deploy these systems in built environments, which has very broad implications beyond this project.”

About the Author(s)

Scarlett Evans

Assistant Editor, IoT World Today

Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.

Sign Up for the Newsletter
The most up-to-date news and insights into the latest emerging technologies ... delivered right to your inbox!

You May Also Like