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US Defense Dept has successfully tested micro-drone swarm technology. (Photo Credit: US Defense Department)

Pentagon Tests Micro-Drone Swarm Technology

U.S. military has successfully tested more than 103 micro-drones released from 3 F/A-18 Super Hornets, in what it said the largest-ever test for the cutting-edge “swarm” technology.

The swarm of 103 Perdix micro drones, too small and of battery-powered were launched from three separate Super Hornets at China Lake in California, by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in collaboration with Naval Air Systems Command, said a statement.

The micro-drones demonstrated swarm behavior in terms of “collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing,” said a Defense Department release on Monday.

“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,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who created the SCO in 2012. The test was conducted in October 2016 and aired on Sunday’s CBS News program “60 Minutes”.

Perdix micro drones are low-altitude flying devices too small to be detected with naked eye or a radar but they are capable of autonomously conducting intelligence collection and useful for surveillance operations.

Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals but act like a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature, said SCO Director William Roper. “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.”

These devices were originally developed by engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department and they were eventually modified for military application at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory in 2013.

Earlier, they were test using F-16 flare canisters by the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in 2014 and in 2015. About 90 Perdix missions were undertaken so far under U.S. Pacific Command’s Northern Edge exercise in Alaska.

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