Intelligent control of an autonomous cooperative of UAVs

Anthony Finn, Samuel Picton Drake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One vision for the future battlespace comprises cooperatives of uninhabited vehicles working seamlessly together and with manned vehicles in an adversarial environment. This provides the future warfighter with the potential to extend his reach and access into areas intentionally denied to him. Realisation of this vision clearly requires significant scientific advances to be made in a number of areas. Moreover, it also implies complete autonomy, whereas in reality humans are likely to be retained within the decision-making cycle, issuing high-level directions, managing uncertainty, and injecting a degree of flexibility and creativity into the system. This paper outlines a number of challenges that the Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO), which is part of the Australian Department of Defence, anticipates it will have to overcome as it develops an experimental capability similar to the one described above. The capability under development employs small, inexpensive Uninhabited Air Vehicles (UAVs) to detect, identify, locate, track, and electronically engage ground-based targets such as radars. These UAVs have the capacity to act autonomously and cooperatively and rely upon a heterogeneous mix of relatively unsophisticated Electronic Warfare (EW) receivers to observe and engage with their adversarial environment. The information observed and shared by this autonomous, adaptive and geographically distributed set of UAVs provides a situational awareness picture that can then be shared across the command echelons. The paper also provides a brief overview of the current status of the DSTO program and the results of some recent trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
Number of pages14
JournalIntelligent Decision Technologies
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Autonomous
  • Cooperative
  • Distributed Electronic Warfare (EW)
  • Multi-UAV
  • Network Centric Warfare (NCW)
  • Situational awareness
  • Uninhabited Air Vehicle (UAV)


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