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The Marines have been boosting the development of UAVs swarm capabilities, using the manned-unmanned airlift concept.

The Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, also known as LOCUST, is a

‘swarm’ of small drones flying in formation leading the advance into enemy territory doing surveillance and hindering hostile forces before the ground troops arrive.

Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the US Marine Corps commanding general for combat development, says the corps envision it would not only slow down the enemy but save Marines’ lives, according to fightersweep.com.

The LOCUST system is being developed and tested by the Office of Naval Research. “Today, we see this manned-unmanned airlift, what we see what the other services are doing, along with our partners in the United States Navy. Whether it’s on the surface, under the surface or in the air, we’re looking for the opportunity for, ‘How will Marines move ashore differently in the future?’ ” Walsh told a crowd at the Unmanned Systems Defense Conference outside Washington, D.C., hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

“Instead of Marines being the first wave in, it’ll be unmanned robotics … sensing, locating and maybe killing out front of those Marines,” he said. “We see that ‘swarm-type’ technology as exactly the type of thing — it will lower cost, dominate the battlespace, leverage capabilities … and be able to complicate the problems for the enemy.”

Each drone costs about $15,000 and basically fly themselves. A human does monitor the formation but once launched the swarm operates autonomously as a group.

Manufactured by Raytheon, the Coyote aircraft weigh between 12-14 pounds each and can be launched in rapid succession.