In a non-descript shed in suburban South Park in Seattle, a team of young Boeing engineers are overseeing an experiment that provides a startling glimpse into the future.
Their 30-metre by 15 metre by five-metre-high unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) 'swarming' laboratory looks like a small indoor cricket shed with model rotor aircraft parked on the concrete floor.
The aim of this cutting edge science is to build the mathematical models that will allow uninhabited aircraft to fly safely in controlled airspace.
Boeing's new Australian research chief Bill Lyons talks about the aim behind the experiment: "To allow (unmanned) systems to operate at least as well as human piloted systems."
Senior Boeing engineer John Vian said the major challenge for unmanned aircraft operating in controlled air space is safety.
"We don't know how these systems will develop. For these systems to be viable they have to be reliable and totally autonomous. We develop the technology, how it is applied is up the customer," Dr. Vian said.