While almost all details of the project under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are classified, the Autonomous Multi-Domain Adaptive Swarms-of-Swarms (AMASS) is reportedly stated in federal contract documents.
Under the strategy, thousands of small aerial, ground and underwater drones will work together to destroy enemy defenses. The automated drones would be equipped with missiles and other tools to accomplish their mission. Target-identifying GPS and radar jammers would assist them in the endeavor. (Related: Next-gen warfare: DARPA tests "drone swarms" that will be operated by artificial intelligence, not human beings.)
According to DARPA, the swarms will be designated "through an optimization process that considers mission objectives, priorities, risks, resource availability, swarm capabilities and timing." An agency spokesperson added that the aim of this project is to keep humans in making critical decisions, with drones waiting for permission to operate if communications fail. The spokesperson also noted that there would be people somewhere supervising and able to take action if needed.
Thousands of units will be able to communicate, exchange information and coordinate actions autonomously with a control system supervising it. Nonetheless, bigger groups with land, air and sea components will present complications and make communication more of a problem.
The AMASS project's development would include tests with both actual and virtual drone swarms, then slowly growing their size and complexity. Bids for the $78 million contract ended on Feb. 10.
The U.S. military has been employing unmanned aerial vehicles on the battlefield since 2001 but has since improved to utilize smaller, stealthier machines to infiltrate enemy lines, to destroy camps or even jam enemy technologies.
The DoD's drone "swarm of swarms" project, however, is becoming rife with increasing ethical and security issues. Critics indicate running these machines will be hard, raising the possibility of lethal force without direct supervision.
George Mason University policy fellow Zachary Kallenborn pointed out that it remains unclear how AMASS will manage its independence.
"As the swarm grows in size, it'll become virtually impossible for humans to manage the decisions. Autonomy and AI will be needed to make those decisions – with all the brittleness that entails," he said in a statement. "A massive drone swarm prone to errors would be a terrifying thing – a new weapon of mass destruction."
Gregory Allen, director of the AI Governance Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., said the Pentagon has been testing hordes of drones for some time now. However, he expressed doubt that AMASS could accomplish missions without resorting to lethal force.
"In theory, AMASS could be entirely non-lethal – carrying out jamming or other non-kinetic attacks in support of other platforms that actually destroy the defenses," said Allen, also an author on WMD terrorism and homeland security. "I think that's unlikely though."
AMASS is not the only DARPA project involving autonomous drones. DARPA has been building Project OFFSET, or OFFensive Swarm-Enabled Tactics Program, which would include up to 250 aerial and land drones.
The first real drone swarm battle was carried out by Israel in a 2021 conflict with Hamas in Gaza, albeit not on the same scale as AMASS. A year later, the Russia-Ukraine war has shown that low-cost drones can be effective in destroying tanks, swamping air defenses and damaging power grids.
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Watch this video that explains how a drone swarm would be a WMD.
This video is from the Ghost of Ruth Drown channel on Brighteon.com.