U.S. Marines could soon get guardian angels: a squadron of small autonomous drones constantly overhead, providing full surveillance and instant airstrikes on demand. And it could happen sooner than you think.

The proposal for “organic tactical unmanned aircraft to support ground forces” is one of several outlined in the Defense Science Board’s mammoth Summer Study on Autonomy, and the key word is “autonomy.”  These drones will possess a high level of distributed artificial intelligence. Unlike current models like the MQ-9 Reaper, they will not be piloted from the ground but will fly themselves, forming a self-organizing squadron that automatically assigns roles to different aircraft based on mission requirements. The squad on the ground will not need a dedicated drone operator; the whole aim of autonomy is not to add to their workload. Control will be via tablet or smartphone, or an earbud with an audio link “similar to the Apple Siri app.”

Full story at DefenseTech here.