Oklahoma State University Receives Permission to Deploy Drones in Swarms

Rotary wing swarm flights being tested at the OSU Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station. Photos courtesy of OSU.

Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI) recently received permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly fixed wing aircraft swarms within the national airspace—making them the first in the U.S. to receive such an authorization.

Through the authorization, one pilot, along with visual observers, can operate a swarm of up to 20 fixed wing aircraft, according to a news release. OSU researchers developed the configuration that will be tested, where groups of drones will fly within smaller flocks as part of a larger swarm. The drones communicate with a local group leader that coordinates flights with the overall swarm formation.

“Swarms are the future of autonomous flight,” said Jamey Jacob, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director for USRI, according to the release. “This unique first of its kind approval just takes us one step closer to demonstrating for the first time the safe and efficient autonomous flight that will be common place in years to come.”