During the world’s largest micro-drone swarm (according to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)), 103 micro-drones carried out organized missions in the skies over China Lake, California. The Perdix drones were launched last October from three F/A-18 Super Hornets and autonomously carried out a series of missions that demonstrated decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing.
Developed by the DoD, the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), and Naval Air Systems Command, the Perdix system is named after the Greek mythology legend. Perdix was saved from certain death after his uncle Daedalus pushed him from a tower, only to be turned into a bird by the goddess Athena.
The autonomous micro-drone was first designed by MIT engineering students and was later modified for military applications by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. So what’s its purpose? Well, it was designed to be launched in swarms to carry out low-altitude Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) as well as other missions. The drones are based on smartphone technology, and uses only commercial components, 3D-printing, and agile manufacturing.
Each propeller-driven drone is 6.5 inches long with a wingspan of 11.8 inches. Weighing in at 10.23 ounces, it has an air endurance of over 20 minutes, can reach speeds of 46 to 69 mph, can operate at temperatures of 14⁰ F, and can endure the shock of being ejected from a fighter plane.
Aside from how they are built, the interesting part is more so how they are all being controlled at once. It’s impossible to control all 103 drones individually, so instead, they actually control themselves (sort of). After being told a series of tasks to perform, they follow in suit all together.
The first flight tests were done in September 2014 and, a year later, 90 Perdix test missions were flown during US Pacific Command’s Northern Edge exercise in Alaska using swarms of up to 20 drones.
The DoD says the seventh generation Perdix is coming soon with more advanced autonomy. In addition, the SACO and the Defense Industrial Unit Experimental (DIUx) are seeking private companies to build 1,000 of the micro-drones this year.
Check out the video below that shows the 103 Perdix drones being launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornets.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)