When you think of a military drone you likely picture something along the lines of the now iconic “Predator,” but the US Department of Defense is also working with much, much smaller aerial vehicles as well. A recent test flight of over a hundred tiny “swarm” drones was just released, and they might actually be more terrifying than the much larger alternative. The test was conducted in California, using drones engineered by a team at MIT.
The drones, which are called Perdix micro-UAVs, were launched from a trio of airborne F-19 Super Hornets. Once they were let loose, the pint-sized devices were thoroughly tested for their ability to track both stationary and moving targets. But what’s most impressive — and maybe even a little creepy — about the drones is that they’re essentially thinking for themselves when it comes to coordinating with each other in the air.
“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,” William Roper, Director of the Strategic Capabilities Office, noted in a a press release. “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 Department of Defense also released a short video showcasing the launch of the drones as well as an the tracking program that the testers used to track the drones and command them from the ground. You can easily see how the swarm of independent drones acts like a flock of birds, deftly avoiding each other while still finding their way to their target location. Pretty impressive stuff.