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Video: Watch the Department of Defense Test a Micro-Drone Swarm

11 January 2017

The Department of Defense (DoD) successfully demonstrated one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms in collaboration with Naval Air Systems Command by launching them mid-air from three F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The DoD is testing advanced swarm behaviors and how they could be used in future military missions, including collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing. The demonstration will also advance the Pentagon’s development of autonomous systems.

The micro-drone swarm test is one of the first examples of how the Pentagon is using teams of small, inexpensive autonomous systems to perform missions that were once achieved only using large, expensive machines. The hope is that these machines and autonomous systems will be used by humans in order to help make better decisions faster.

The military used the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Perdix drones that were modified for military use by the engineers from MIT Lincoln Laboratory. The test using the Perdix drones, which originally took place in October of last year, confirmed that commercially-developed drones can be reliably used for deployment in military campaigns and can withstand large shocks and harsh weather conditions.

“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,” says William Roper, director of Strategic Capabilities Office. “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 DoD is working to find companies that will be able to replicate the Perdix based on the modified military design with the goal to produce drones at scale in batches of up to 1,000 units.

To contact the author of this article, email Peter.Brown@ieeeglobalspec.com


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