I have actually read articles in the magazine Popular Science that discussed an idea similar to this. In the article I read, the idea of swarm drones was in the context of using them to boost wireless signals to areas of natural disaster; thus allowing better communication between emergency workers. There is no doubt that this idea of swarm robots could prove to be an incredibly useful concept (being a new technology, most applications of which have not yet been considered). The legitimacy of this idea has even captured the attention of the U.S. Air Force who is launching a campaign to draw in engineering students to help them develop new search and rescue technologies.
Their application seems to focus on technology in general, and not necessarily drones. However, considering that they are the US Air Force, one would imagine they have considered the possibility of incorporating the ideas. After all, the Air Force has also begun to research self-aware drones; ones which are intelligent enough to make their own decisions. Despite the fact that this somehow seems familiar [ahem, Skynet] the Air Force may be cracking into an intriguingly applicable technology.
So what about all three; self-aware search and rescue drone unit swarms? Seems very plausible to me, and could prove to be an effective tool in communications, as well as searching for trapped survivors in catastrophe situations. And while we’re at it, what about a drone that could drop in supplies to troops on the battlefield, or even serve as an “enemy locator” when our soldiers are pinned? All seem like perfectly acceptable applications. And although this idea of self aware military drones does start to remind us of certain sci-fi flicks, I’m convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks. Maybe we just don’t give them guns?