Now, researchers at University of Colorado Boulder are dispatching this technology in a way it hasn't been used before that could help find lost hikers.
The difference between the CU team's work and drone technology you may have already heard of is "swarming."
The new technology could be used to help find beacon-toting hikers lost in the mountains or track imperiled wildlife.
9NEWS spoke with Steve Borenstein, lead engineer on the project and pilot for the CU Boulder team who said what they're doing up in Boulder is cutting-edge.
"We've developed from scratch a lot of those capabilities and interfaces that allow our operators to operate multiple aircrafts at once, as well as the sensing technology that we're using to do the lost hiker experiments or the collaborative team experiments," Borenstein said.
CU Boulder researchers are working with Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Boulder County Parks and Open Space and several other partners on the project.
The CU Boulder team spent three weeks in August on the project at the Pawnee National Grassland near Greeley, Colorado, using the first-ever approval by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct flights with a single pilot managing multiple aircraft, up to 30 at a time.
Typical approval by the FAA requires every drone to have its own pilot and one observer who is responsible for watching out for other air traffic. Borenstein says unlike Lady Gaga's memorable Super Bowl halftime show using drones -- the CU team was granted permission to do this as many times as they want...so long as it's in the same location.
The purpose of the technology is to locate moving radio beacons and follow them.
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