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The U.S. military hopes to get drone swarms from different manufacturers to talk to one another during warfare, and the key might be a language called Droidish.
Pentagon scientists are creating a mesh network of drones in which there is no need for outside connectivity. But despite being connected, the drones still need a common language to communicate, and that is where Droidish comes in.
Keven Gambold, the CEO of government contractor Unmanned Experts, has been working on drone communication since 2020. While the language is designed purely for “machine-to-machine discussions,” humans are still needed to develop and expand the language’s vocabulary, as tasks get more sophisticated. Gambold hopes that eventually the language will expand enough that any vehicle-to-vehicle system could use it to communicate, for example, self-driving cars could coordinate in Droidish, or futuristic flying vehicles could use it to safely navigate drone-filled skies.
According to Forbes, the development of Droidish will culminate in a test to be held in Colorado this October, in which aircraft will be launched on a mission and use the language to decide on what tactics are to be used in a given scenario.
Influenced both by Ukraine’s extensive use of drones to defend against Russian invasion and by fears of China’s technological advances, the Pentagon is using research labs, academia, and AI tech companies to ensure the US is not falling behind when it comes to next-generation drone warfare.
The Air Force, however, has been careful to position AI as a tool, not a weapon. Senior scientist at the US Air Force Research Lab Dr. Lee Seversky told Forbes that his department focuses on developing AI technologies to augment pilots.
Furthermore, according to Forbes, government contract records reveal many other US projects focused on developing AI drone swarms, with companies such as Arlington, BlueHalo, and Shield AI. The latter recently signed a contract with the Air Force to develop an AI drone swarm that can work without GPS or satellite connectivity, a technology called “V-BAT Team” and is almost ready for launch.
The rush to develop these kinds of systems is only increasing all over the world. Recent reports show that China’s National University of Defense Technology has successfully tested a swarm of dozens of drones that located and destroyed a target without human involvement, while simultaneously successfully avoiding attempts to jam their communications.