If you have ever tried to pilot a remote-controlled drone from the ground, you know how hard it can be. You have a control panel with a lever to move it up and down, another one to move it left and right, and blinking lights that do who knows what.
So, could you imagine trying to keep 50 drones up in the air, at the same time? It sounds daunting for a reason. It is. In fact, the new world record for piloting multiple drones stands at 50.
There were some high-powered minds behind this swarm. Students at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, launched the 50 drones, but the drones were piloted by only one person. Hence, the record.
Their feat is incredible. These are pretty big drones that fly like unmanned planes, or flying wings. They're too big to be launched by hand, so the students created slingshot-like launchers.
They launched one drone every 30 seconds, ultimately getting 50 into the air. They're already working on shortening that launch time, meaning that 50-drone record will likely soon fall.
There is one other really cool reason these students were able to get 50 drones controlled by just one person. The drones aren't individually piloted by a remote control.
Instead, once airborne, these smart drones communicate with each other, using high-power Wi-Fi. That way, they don't crash into each other and, more important, they're not overwhelming drone communication systems.
These students are trying to mimic animals' swarming behavior where sometimes they move in unison, but at other times they cover a lot of ground by moving around in different directions. That could eventually be useful for search-and-rescue efforts. They're using the drones to help create swarming algorithms, so drones in the future can be programmed to communicate with one another.
If you'd like to try to break their record, there is one other thing you need to know. Each Zephyr drone they used cost $2,000, although they built them from readily available parts.