Engineers at Boeing Co. and Johns Hopkins University have devised technology that enables drones to function like a swarm of insects that can communicate and carry out tasks together in mid-flight.

Two small ScanEagle drones, made by Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc., autonomously conducted searches and communicated information to one another, Boeing said.

The team conducted flight tests in Oregon for several days in June and demonstrated that an operator on the ground, using only a laptop and a military radio, can coordinate the drone “swarm” to carry out a mission.

"This swarm technology may one day enable warfighters in battle to request and receive [drones] much sooner than they can from ground control stations today," Gabriel Santander, Boeing’s program director of advanced autonomous networks, said in a statement. "Swarm network technology has the potential to offer more missions at less risk and lower operating costs..."