Camera droneThere’s no I in drone. 

A new project led by Professor of Aerospace Engineering Sciences Eric Frew is exploring how teams of drones could work together to gather information even without a pilot—a feat of coordination that could be useful for monitoring wildlife from on high or finding hikers lost in the wilderness. 

To enable the study, Frew and his colleagues obtained a first-of-its-kind approval from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows a single operator to control multiple drones at once. 

The researchers, part of the Integrating Remote and In Situ Sensing (IRISS) initiative, tested their linked drones over three weeks at the Pawnee National Grassland near Greeley, Colorado. The planes were successful at working together to locate and chase down moving radio beacons.