Babcock has announced its successful demonstration of SwarmCore – an advanced software system made up of multiple networks for swarm drone fleets – at the UK Ministry of Defence’s BattleLab site in Dorset last week.

This technology can control single or entire fleets of vehicles such as uncrewed systems in a defence environment.  It can be operated either fully autonomously or by remote human control at a safe distance from the battlefield.

The project was created in collaboration with Arqit, a leader in quantum-safe encryption and supported by the UK’s national innovation agency, Innovate UK.

One of the key benefits of SwarmCore and its integration with Arqit’s Symmetric Key Agreement Platform is its ability to receive and transmit data in a safe and secure way in a decentralised manner. In a defence environment, this would mean if a single vehicle as part of a fleet was either hacked or attacked, the rest of the fleet could continue its mission instructions with no single asset ever being a point of failure.

Swarm drone technology in the Russo-Ukraine war

Nowhere has drone technology been used more than in Ukraine, where invading Russian forces, only two days ago, launched 17 Iranian-manufactured Shahed-136/ -131 uncrewed aerial vehicles and six S-300 missiles at civilian targets in Ukraine; only ten of these weapon systems were shot down by the Ukrainian air defences.

This tech is a foretaste of the future of warfare, in which armed forces procure effective, remote weapon systems according to the trinity of delivery, cost and effectiveness. Within this Venn diagram, uncrewed systems come in at the dead-centre.

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According to a GlobalData Analyst Briefing on Directed Energy Weapons and the Future of Counter-Uncrewed Aerial System (UAS) solutions (November 2023), uncrewed systems have an attrition rate of around 10,000 drones per month for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Both Ukraine and the Russians have only expanded their use over time as the systems’ cost-to-benefit ratio remain far more favourable than that of comparably more expensive or less accurate equipment.

Furthermore, swarming attacks designed to overwhelm countermeasures or air defences using large number of strategically expendable UAS systems have become an increasingly common tactic and is proving a challenge for even the most advanced kinetic air defence solutions.

Arqit founder, Chairman and CEO, David Williams stated: “This collaboration with Babcock has allowed us to deliver a ground-breaking technology that not only enhances security but can also boost operational agility, both in the present and in the foreseeable future.”