Operational "swarms" of mini- or micro-unmanned air systems are expected to be operational five years from now.
This may be considered a whim of scientists or a real breakthrough. Only time will tell which is the right one, but in any case this development ignites the imagination of many involved in developing new methods of combat.
"The main problem is not the technology, but to develop the trust of the potential clients that this concept can work," Arik Yavnai, one Israel's leading experts in unmanned "swarms", told Flightglobal.
Work on developing UAS swarm technology is being performed mainly in the US and Israel.
Last year, Boeing performed autonomous communication and operations of a swarm of small UAS over eastern Oregon.
This test involved two ScanEagles made by Boeing/Insitu and one Procerus, developed by the John Hopkins University.
The basis of the swarm technology is to imitate the way insects communicate and perform tasks as an group.
The UAS that participated in the Boeing tests worked together to search the test area through self-generating waypoints and terrain mapping, while simultaneously sending information to teams on the ground.
Yavnai said the hurdles that delay the deployment of UAS swarms are mainly related to the trust of the operators that such a method will work.
"A swarm will be comprised either by UAS that each will perform part of the mission or by platforms that each will perform part of a comprehensive mission," he said.
Yavnai assessed that a swarm will consist of 5-7 platforms. Most of the work being done in Israel on UAS swarms is considered highly classified. However, it can be assessed that some of the very advanced designs recently revealed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will be used in the implementation of the technology.
One such platform is the Butterfly UAS. This miniature UAS imitates the motions of a butterfly's wings.
It is 20cm long and weighs 12g. It flies by flapping its four wings.
The prototype is part of an overall effort to develop covert miniature UAS for special forces and was test flown with a camera that weighs less than 1g.
IAI plans to offer a line of miniature UAS equipped with different payloads.
The Israeli leading developer of UAS has also unveiled its Ghost vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAS.
The double-rotor VTOL system is aimed specifically at the covert missions of special forces.
The Ghost weighs 4kg, has an endurance of 30min and can carry a 500g payload.
Other designs are in different stages of development - but they are classified.