China Electronics Technology Group (CETC), a state-owned company reportedly conducted the test in September and released the video on Tuesday along with the details.
According to Chinese local media reports, the test demonstrated the ability of the whole process such as the rapid deployment of vehicles, intensive launching, hovering and launching in the air, manoeuvring launching, precise formation, formation change, ground inspection and attack, and precision strike.
In the video, the drones are launched from a vehicle similar to the Dongfeng Humvee and a helicopter as well. According to David Hambling of the Forbes, China has long had tactical loitering munitions like the 20-pound CH-901, which cruises over the target area beaming back video for the operator to locate a target, then diving in to destroy it on command.
“The drones are launched with compressed air, then unfold their wings and fly to the target area with an electric-powered propeller. The kamikaze drones carry high-explosive warheads, potentially powerful enough to destroy tanks and other armour,” he stated.
The US is also in the race to develop swarming drone technology. The US Navy has already performed offensive swarm operations with its LOCUST drone swarm developed by Raytheon.
Last year, CETC unveiled a multi-function processing unit for swarm intelligence. According to the CETC, based on swarm intelligence algorithms and dynamic networking protocols, the processing unit features flight control, mission planning, intelligence decision-making and dynamic networking, integrating the flight control system and the measurement and control system of traditional drones.
“In 2018 China displayed a launch vehicle with eight CH-901st, which would be launched one at a time. The difference here is the swarming technology, which means the operator only needs to designate the target,” explained Hambling. The swarming system ensures that all the drones adhere to the same rules to follow cohesion without colliding with each other.
Hambling also acknowledged the difficulty to counter such drones. He wrote that jammers may not be enough if the drones do not have a direct link to the operator and which may navigate by landmarks and do not rely on GPS. Missile and cannons could be too slow to shoot the swarm down. He concluded saying that US’ ‘counter swarm’ may be the only way to fight swarm drones.