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See DARPA quadcopter drones fly an obstacle course without GPS

Unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones or UAVs, have become a very essential part of warfare for the United States. Some have even taken out some terrorist bigwigs, including Anwar al-Awlaki, who was connected to the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood.


That said, drones rely on one of two things: They need to be flown by a pilot who knows where the drone is in relation to its destination (or target), or they need to know how they will get to Point A from Point B. Usually, this is done via the Global Positioning System, or GPS. But what if GPS is not an option?

Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing's hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

That situation may not be far-fetched. GPS jammers are available – even though they are illegal – and last year, the military tested a GPS jammer at China Lake. Without reliable GPS, not only could the drones be in trouble, but some of their weapons, like the GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munition, a 500-pound bomb guided by GPS, could be useless. There are also places where GPS doesn't work, like inside buildings or underground.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, though, has been on the case. In Florida, DARPA ran a number of tests involving small quadcopter drones that don't rely on GPS. Instead, these drones, part of the Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program, carried out a number of tests over four days.

Members of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Fast Lightweight Autonomy (FLA) program used the 102nd Intelligence Wing's hangar to test small UAVs in an indoor, controlled environment. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The UAVs, going at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, ran through a number of obstacle courses set in various environments, including a warehouse and a forest. These DARPA tests were part of Phase I.

Check out the video below to see some highlights from the tests!