The concept sounds hard to defeat: dispatch a horde of flying, thinking armed robots that can autonomously coordinate amongst themselves an attack against a target.
If an anti-aircraft weapon takes down one drone, the others change direction, push through and destroy the target kamikaze style.
Senior Air Force officers and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter are among the military leaders who have touted "swarming" robots lately, although the Air Force Research Laboratory doesn't like that term. It prefers "distributed collaborative systems."
The problem with the biological term "swarming" is that it doesn't fully describe where the Air Force and others are going with this technology, said Kristen Kearns, autonomy portfolio lead at AFRL.
Swarming fish and birds don't collaborate much, she said in an interview. "That collaboration is where we anticipate where you would be able to gain capability as opposed to blindly following or staying out of the way of everything else in the team."