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The US Marine Corps is on the hunt for drone swarms that can stay in the air for hours, in order to carry out a range of missions — from delivering explosives to jamming communications. Among the solution is one that will enable a sole Marine soldier to dispatch more than a dozen drones to jam enemy communications and take out targets — all from a single handheld tablet.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab has successfully tested the ability to have a single Marine operate six drones in the air simultaneously. The goal is to get that up to 15 and to see the small unmanned systems stay in the air for hours at a time.

According to, that could help ground troops in remote or hotly contested locations augment 60mm mortar fire with precision strikes. The army is looking for drones with a host of potentials, including swarming, automatic-target recognition, kinetic-strike and electronic-warfare capabilities.

The Warfighting Lab’s efforts are part of a larger Marine Corps strategy called Sea Dragon 2025. Marines are experimenting with drones, self-driving vehicles, robotics and other technology that can limit their exposure in the field. The use of unmanned technology could be especially beneficial in complex urban environments, said Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, head of the Warfighting Lab.

Getting to the point where one Marine controls a swarm of drones is a big change from unmanned systems like the Switchblade, which required one operator per drone. That kamikaze-style drone delivers a payload equivalent to a 40mm grenade.

“We can use manned-unmanned teaming and unmanned systems to take on some of the most dangerous tasks that Marines are executing in that kind of an urban environment,” said Capt. Matt Cornachio, a fires project officer with the Warfighting Lab’s science and technology division.