This paper presents a hierarchical flight control system for unmanned aerial vehicles. The proposed system executes high-level mission objectives by progressively substantiating them into machine-level commands. The acquired information from various sensors is propagated back to the higher layers for reactive decision making. Each vehicle is connected via standardized wireless communication protocol for scalable multi-agent coordination. The proposed system has been successfully implemented on a number of small helicopters and validated in various applications. Results from waypoint navigation, a probabilistic pursuit-evasion game and vision-based target tracking demonstrate the potential of the proposed approach toward intelligent flying robots. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.