The Download: US Navy drone swarms, and inside animals’ minds

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The US Navy is working on ways to build, deploy, and control thousands of small drones that are able to flock together to overwhelm anti-aircraft defenses with sheer numbers, budget documents reveal.

The conflict in Ukraine has proved the worth of small drones, which have carried out reconnaissance, guided artillery fire, and destroyed tanks. Such drones are currently limited by the fact that each one needs its own operator. In a swarm, however, hundreds or thousands of drones are controlled as a single unit.

Many nations are working on such swarms, including China, Russia, India, the UK, Turkey, and Israel, which in 2021 became the first nation to use swarming drones in combat. But the US Navy has always been a leader in this field, and the budget documents that MIT Technology Review has read reveal ambitious plans for swarms vastly bigger than anything yet seen. Read the full story.

—David Hambling

Inside the enigmatic minds of animals

More than ever, we feel a duty and desire to extend empathy to our nonhuman neighbors. In the last three years, more than 30 countries have formally recognized other animals—including gorillas, lobsters, crows, and octopuses—as sentient beings.

A trio of new books from Ed Yong, Jackie Higgins, and Philip Ball, detail creatures’ rich inner worlds and capture what has led to these developments: a booming field of experimental research challenging the long-standing view that animals are neither conscious nor cognitively complex.

But though all three assemble troves of fascinating research that provides windows into the lives of animals, we’re left asking how close we really are to bridging the species divide. Read the full story.

—Matthew Ponsford

This piece is from our forthcoming mortality-themed issue, launching this Wednesday. If you want to read it when it comes out, you can subscribe to MIT Technology Review for as little as $80 a year.

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