The Pentagon has drones. Lots of them. And as of Monday, hundreds of miniature versions of them can work together and attack an enemy like a swarm of killer bees.
The DoD made the news public on Monday, though its Strategic Capabilities Office successfully demonstrated its micro-drone technology at China Lake, California back in October.
During the test, three F/A-18 Super Hornets spit out more than 100 tiny Perdix drones, which then linked up with each other to collectively make decisions and fly in formation.
“Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronised individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” SCO Director William Roper said in a statement.
“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 mini-drones are meant to be expendable — flying low and offering surveillance capabilities beyond those offered by larger unmanned aircraft like the Predator or Global Hawk. They also can be used to overwhelm enemy defences, since their numbers and speed make them much harder to track.
“Saturating has an advantage over the thing it has to defend against. Its defender has to take more time and money to defend against it,” Roper said in October.
First developed at MIT in 2013, the drones have been continuously upgraded and tested by the Pentagon. Currently, the drones have about a one-foot wingspan and can fly for roughly 20 minutes at an air speed of 40 to 60 knots. The Pentagon is working on its next generation design with more advanced autonomy, according to its fact sheet.
Check out the video of the test below: