China showcases new drone that can rapidly divide into swarm

By Dénes Albert
3 Min Read

At a time when the war in Ukraine has shown an increasing role of drones in warfare, Chinese scientists have developed a military drone capable of rapidly splitting into six separate units in the air.

The drone marks a breakthrough in aerial separation technology and could lead to a new battlefield arms race. The new devices are faster and more efficient than traditional multi-rotor drones and have the ability to confuse opponents by unexpectedly multiplying into huge swarms on the battlefield, according to scientists at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Inspired by the structure of maple seeds, the new drones have a single blade when both combined and split. These drones can also fly freely like a standard drone and communicate to perform complex missions, according to Hungarian news outlet Ziare.

Despite their unusual shape, the Chinese drones boast a flight efficiency nearly twice that of a similar-sized multi-rotor drone. If traditional drones were combined, they would typically slow down. Meanwhile, even when separated into individual units, the flight efficiency of these drones remains 40 percent higher than most small drones.

Researchers said a soldier equipped with multiple drones could split them in mid-air to complete a series of missions, giving the Chinese People’s Liberation Army a tactical advantage over its opponents.

“The main benefit is the ability to jam the response of air defense systems,” Will Shumate, a researcher at RAND, told Business Insider.

“When drones are detected, defense systems deploy a certain amount of resources proportional to the threat. If the threat suddenly escalates, it provides an opportunity to overwhelm deployed air defense resources,” Shumate said. “If the drone was ready to be launched and a conflict broke out today, it could be a tactical shift,” he added.

It is not clear whether the drones are ready for mass production, but military analysts said that there are over 2,000 companies in China working on drone development, and the country has a well-established production capacity and parts supply lines that allow for fast and cheap production.

China has impressed with its drone swarms in the past, including in a viral video that showed a drone swarm successfully navigating through a bamboo forest in 2022.

Share This Article