The Department of Defense has reported the successful testing of a drone “swarm,” with over 100 unmanned aerial vehicles conducting trial missions after being successfully deployed by military fighters.
The DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office and Naval Air Systems Command successfully demonstrated the micro-drone swarm in October of last year, having launched 103 “Perdix” drones from munitions pods mounted on F/A-18 Super Hornets before ordering the drones to organize and go on mock missions.
The event was featured on Sunday’s CBS News program, “60 Minutes.”
“I congratulate the Strategic Capabilities Office for this successful demonstration,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who founded the SCO in 2012. “This is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that will keep us a step ahead of our adversaries. This demonstration will advance our development of autonomous systems.”
SCO Director William Roper explained the nature of the drones and how they communicate with each other.
“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,” Roper said. “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.”
The demonstration had the 100+ Perdix units conduct missions, heading to different locations on a map and performing observation duties.
Designed by MIT students, the he Perdix drones were modified for military use back in 2013. In addition to their complex nature, the drones are relatively sturdy, having been able to survive high-speed deployment from the F/A-18s.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Roper noted that the SCO is currently looking for ways to arm the drones so that they may defend themselves.
“We are looking into defensive capability for a robot- armed robots,” he said.
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