Micro-drone swarm launched by US Department of Defense

The Strategic Capabilities Office of the United States Department of Defense and the Naval Air Systems Command have demonstrated a micro drone swarm. If that set of three words weren't enough to terrify your senses, just wait until you see the demonstration video. This demonstration showed 103 Perdix drones launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets. The goal with this program is to be able to launch 1,000 drones at once.

"Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature," said SCO Director William Roper. Each drone shown in this demonstration is a Perdix drone. These Perdix drones are made to fly in an array of small, inexpensive, autonomous drones meant to accomplish a single goal.

"Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team," said Roper. These drones are meant to take the place of larger, more expensive drones used in the past. In the Defense Department's release on the subject, it's mentioned that Roper stressed that "the department's conception of the future battle network is one where humans will always be in the loop."

This same release said that both autonomous systems and machines such as these are being developed by the Department of Defense to "empower humans to make better decisions faster." This past October, the Perdix drone was shown to be able to move at tremendous speed, take a large amount of shock, and work in a wide range of temperature conditions.

Perdix Micro-drone specifications:

• Propellers: 2.6 in 

• Body: 6.5 in 

• Wing span: 11.8 in 

• Weight: 290 g 

• Endurance: >20 min 

• Air speed: >40‐60 kts 

Tests in October of 2016 showed that the current Perdix micro-drone design was able to run at temperatures down to minus 10 degrees Celsius. These tests showed that the Perdix micro-drone could survive shock taken from ejections from fighter flare dispensers (as shown in the video in this article). Most recent tests of the Perdix micro-drone showed the drone to be able to reach speeds of Mach 0.6.

UPDATE: The test you're seeing in the video above and the October tests mentioned are one in the same. This test was run by the SCO, Naval Air Systems Command, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory (where the drone was developed), all participated and ran this demonstration. This test was done at China Lake, California, USA.