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The U.S. Department of Defense announced a successful test of 103 Perdix drones

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Old December 30th 17, 08:59 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting,rec.aviation.military
Larry Dighera
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Default The U.S. Department of Defense announced a successful test of 103 Perdix drones


JAN 11, 2017 7:40 AM PT

Pentagon tested world's largest swarm of autonomous micro-drones
The Defense Department successfully tested a swarm of 103 Perdix

The U.S. Department of Defense announced a successful test of 103 Perdix
.. Granted, the drones are not a beautiful product of nature like starlings,
but the swarm does act like a “collective organism” that shares a single
brain for decision making.

Perdix is a surveillance tool that has a 6.5-inch body, with a wing span of
11.8 inches, and weighs about 10.2 ounces (290 grams). It runs on batteries,
has a built-in camera, can stay airborne for longer than 20 minutes, and can
reach speeds of 46 to 69 mph. The drones, which have 2.6-inch propellers,
can handle being launched via flare dispensers on fighter planes at speeds
of Mach 6, and they can operate at temperatures as low as 14° F (-10° C).

During a test last year, 103 Perdix drones were launched from three F/A-18
Super Hornets over China Lake, California. According to the fact sheet
(pdf), the world’s largest micro-drone “swarm demonstrated advanced
behaviors like collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and

The fact sheet explained:

Perdix are not preprogrammed, synchronized individuals. They share a
distributed brain for decision making and adapt to each other, and the
environment, much like swarms in nature. Because every Perdix communicates
and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can
gracefully adapt to changes in drone numbers. This allows this team of small
inexpensive drones to perform missions once done by large expensive ones.

The flight was also documented by 60 Minutes
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minu...x-drone-swarm/ ,
although the program almost gave up on the story as “the Perdix drone flies
too fast – upwards of 40-50 miles per hour – and too unpredictably for a
conventional news camera to follow.” They ended up capturing the
“complicated swarm maneuver” with a camera used to capturing “a golf ball as
it soars to the fairway.”

670 Perdix have already been flown since MIT first developed the drones and
named them after a Greek mythical character who was turned into a bird.
Perdix is now in its sixth generation, with hardware and software being
“updated in design generations much like smartphones.”

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated, “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.”

The Defense Department said it was interested in finding companies that
could quickly build 1,000 units this year.

Like it or not, this is one aspect of the “future battle network.” The
Pentagon says humans will “always be in the loop,” but the “Gen 7” design
that is in the works is expected to include “more advanced autonomy.”


Department of Defense Announces Successful Micro-Drone Demonstration
Press Operations

Release No: NR-008-17
Jan. 9, 2017

In one of the most significant tests of autonomous systems under development
by the Department of Defense, the Strategic Capabilities Office, partnering
with Naval Air Systems Command, successfully demonstrated one of the world’s
largest micro-drone swarms at China Lake, California. The test, conducted in
October 2016 and documented on Sunday’s CBS News program “60 Minutes”,
consisted of 103 Perdix drones launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornets. The
micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective
decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing.

“I congratulate the Strategic Capabilities Office for this successful
demonstration,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who created 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.”

“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. “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 is one of the first examples of the Pentagon using teams
of small, inexpensive, autonomous systems to perform missions once achieved
only by large, expensive ones. Roper stressed the department’s conception of
the future battle network is one where humans will always be in the loop.
Machines and the autonomous systems being developed by the DoD, such as the
micro-drones, will empower humans to make better decisions faster.

Originally designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering
students, the Perdix drone was modified for military use by the scientists
and engineers of MIT Lincoln Laboratory starting in 2013. Drawing
inspiration from the commercial smartphone industry, Perdix software and
hardware has been continually updated in successive design generations. Now
in its sixth generation, October's test confirmed the reliability of the
current all-commercial-component design under potential deployment
conditions—speeds of Mach 0.6, temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius, and
large shocks—encountered during ejection from fighter flare dispensers.

The “60 Minutes” segment also featured other new technology from across the
Department of Defense such as the Navy’s unmanned ocean-going vessel, the
Sea Hunter, and the Marine Corps’ Unmanned Tactical Control and
Collaboration program.

As SCO works with the military Services to transition Perdix into existing
programs of record, it is also partnering with the Defense Industrial
Unit-Experimental, or DIUx, to find companies capable of accurately
replicating Perdix using the MIT Lincoln Laboratory design. Its goal is to
produce Perdix at scale in batches of up to 1,000.

Editor’s Note:

A fact sheet about Perdix can be found here.

Perdix video footage:


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