The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded 2.7 million euros to the project Steadfast (Swarm Technology Enabling Advanced Drone-Facilitated Active Support Tactics). This project focuses on improving situational awareness in disaster response and military operations, where rapid decision-making and real-time monitoring are of great importance. Swarms consisting of small drones play a crucial role in this.
Within the Steadfast project, it will be explored how intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance tasks (ISR) can be performed by swarms of small, human-collaborating drones. Such drone swarms have the potential to provide precise and efficient situational awareness in both natural and densely populated areas.
The deployment of so-called human swarm teams (HST), where groups of small drones operate in a coordinated manner under human guidance, promises a revolutionary step forward in how military and first responders conduct operations. For example, it is conceivable that small drones could collect information from various perspectives after a natural disaster, thereby optimizing the deployment of emergency services.
Challenges and Objectives
Although the potential of swarm technology is significant, scientific and sociological obstacles stand in the way of successful implementation. The Steadfast project aims to overcome these obstacles by facilitating faster response times, improved decision-making, and more efficient use of personnel and resources.
Research is not only being conducted into swarm technology but also into human-machine collaboration and the ethical and legal dimensions. The ultimate goal is to minimize casualties and collateral damage in military and relief operations.
The Steadfast consortium is led by Prof. Dr. Marie Šafář, who is a professor of computational cognitive science at Tilburg University. The consortium includes companies such as TNO, the Air Force, Delft Dynamics, Thales, and Robin Radar.
The grant is part of the KIC mission call ‘Collaboration between humans and (semi)autonomous systems’. This call focuses on the further development of (semi-)autonomous systems, their deployment in society, and their collaboration with humans.