Defence contractor Thales Group proposes this sci-fi chair-and-monitor arrangement as a setup capable of helping a person command up to three unmanned drones at once.
It’s only a proof-of-concept for now — while it does work as described, it’s the only one of its kind and there are no plans for developing it (yet!).
Thales Group already makes a number of other air defence systems for the U.S. and British military, so this seems a natural extension of the company’s direction.
Because so many of the details of a drone flight can be handled by software — take-off and landing are nearly automatic, other variables like altitude, GPS waypoints, and flight trajectory can be easily specified ahead of time — drones can mostly fly themselves.
When they’re up in the air and carrying out a predetermined flight plan (say for a surveillance mission), this lower requirement for human input means one human operator can monitor the goings-on of multiple drones at once. You can run that surveillance mission from three drones at once, using only one person.
The human operator only needs to keep an eye on the real-time surveillance footage that’s beamed back and make the occasional adjustments in the drones’ flight plan as needed.
This proof-of-concept demonstrator is built around a control station capable of supervising multiple [unmanned aerial vehicles] for surveillance missions. It allows the operator to plan and then automatically track a mission flying up to three UAVs simultaneously. It also manages the UAVs’ sensors (visible and infrared cameras, etc.) and detects potential targets for the operator, who can then designate and track a target with one of the UAVs.
Here’s a full picture of it: