ANKARA, Turkey — A privately owned Turkish company says it has developed an artificial intelligence-based software for swarm drones.
MilSOFT announced Nov. 19 it developed the software after four years of research, and the the technology could be used in both fixed- and rotary-wing drone platforms.
A government aerospace official said swarm drones would be used in Turkey’s future unmanned aerial combat concept due to their low hardware costs and stealth technology.
“These drones could be ideal in asymmetrical warfare. They are quick, cost-effective and easy to operate,” the official said. “Most importantly, they are assets designed to minimize human loss in asymmetrical warfare.”
The Turkish military has been operating a big fleet of tactical and armed drones primarily in combat against Kurdish militants in Turkey’s southeast provinces but also in cross-border operations in northern Syria and Iraq. Turkish drones have also been used in Libya’s civil war and, most recently, in conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Many countries have yet to try drone swarm technology in a simulated, controlled environment. Turkey is among those that have the technology and the ability to test it in the field during operations.
Turkey’s top procurement office, the Presidency for Defense Industries, launched its Swarm UAV Technology Development and Demonstration program with a view to develop algorithms and software for the use of unmanned platforms with a swarm capability. The program is also meant to involve micro-scale companies as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.
MilSOFT has specialized in software solutions since 1998, and it is one of the participants of the government-run program. It has been offering products to the Turkish military for tasks including identifying detection by automatic moving target technology using AI, and machine-learning techniques with image-processing algorithms.
The company said with the integration of intelligence and image evaluation products, drone swarms can be updated with additional capabilities such as reconnaissance, detection, recognition, search and rescue, and vehicle tracking.
MilSOFT’s software-based solution will allow drone swarms to be launched from aerial, land and naval platforms, and the images they obtain will enter a central command system. In the meantime, the drone flocks will transfer images between different military units with a relay function.
AI technology can help catch elements that cannot be caught by the human eye and enable multiple attack capabilities by arming vehicles in operation.
MilSOFT’s AI-based software is also expected to enable swarm drones to perform frontal attacks on command from helicopters and provide operational support to other friendly platforms. The drones can reportedly operate autonomously from the beginning to the end of a mission, and can be instantly monitored and controlled via intelligence applications.
The UAVs have a flight time of more than half an hour and a payload capacity of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). The vehicles work with landing gear that can land on rough terrain.
While five UAVs are currently used in a herd in the field, this number can reach up to 25 in a controlled environment. MilSOFT aims to make a drone swarm of 50 operational vehicles.
Communication between the drones is also provided by MilSOFT’s own technology. Vehicles can communicate with each other from up to 500 meters. There is also a 10-kilometer network solution for data transfers.
MilSOFT plans to integrate its technology for underwater and surface platforms as well as land vehicles.
Burak Ege Bekdil is a Turkey correspondent for Defense News. He has written for Hurriyet Daily News, and worked as Ankara bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswires and CNBC-e television. He is also a fellow at the Middle East Forum and regularly writes for the Middle East Quarterly and Gatestone Institute.