Autonomous micro-drones, originally developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory back in 2013, are now fully operational and are capable of carrying out “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and other missions,” according to a Strategic Capabilities Office white paper.
The $20 million program named “Perdix” spawned successful operations of both large and small autonomous micro-drone swarms which can be “air, sea, or ground-launched” in a variety of conditions.
William Roper with the Department of Defense said in a statement:
“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. 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.”
Initial testing of Perdix started in 2014 when the autonomous micro-drones were first air-dropped from F-16 aircraft over an Edwards Air Force Base training facility. Later in Sept. 2015 Perdix conducted 90 missions during U.S. Pacific Command’s “Northern Edge Excercise” in Alaska. But the real test took place in late 2016 when “Naval Air Systems Command and MIT Lincoln Laboratory deployed a swarm of 103 Perdix from three F/A-18 Super Hornets at China Lake California” where the swarm “demonstrated advanced behaviors like collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and advanced healing.”
Perdix are designed in such a way that the operator need not “micromanage” the swarm’s behavior, but rather Perdix decides best how to run its own plays within the parameters of its mission.
Perdix is currently using Generation 6 technology but the program will soon be “partnering with the Defense Industrial Unit-Experimental (DIUx)” to manufacture thousands of Gen 7 Perdix.
Perdix, named after a Greek mythological story surrounding Deadalus, suit their name well.
According to the Greek myth:
Daedalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear the idea of a rival. His sister, sometimes named as Perdix, had placed her son (variously named Perdix, Talos, or Calos) under his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt scholar and showed striking evidence of ingenuity. While walking on the seashore, he picked up the spine of a fish, or a serpent’s jaw. Imitating it, he took a piece of iron and notched it on the edge, thus inventing the saw. He made a pair of compasses by putting two pieces of iron together, connecting them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends.
In the myth, Perdix was changed into a partridge. Daedalus was so envious of his nephew’s accomplishments that he took an opportunity, when they were together one day on the top of a high tower, to push him off. But Athena, who favors ingenuity, saw him falling and arrested his fate by changing him into a bird called after his name, the Perdix (partridge). This bird does not build its nest in the trees, nor take lofty flights, but nestles in the hedges, and mindful of his fall, avoids high places. For this crime, Daedalus was tried and banished.
Details of the Perdix include:
- Propellers 2.6 inches
- Body 6.5 inches
- Wingspan 11.8 inches
- Weight 290 g
- Endurance: >20 min.
- Air-speed: >40-60 kts
Shepard Ambellas is an opinion journalist and the founder and editor-in-chief of Intellihub News & Politics (Intellihub.com). Shepard is also known for producing Shade: The Motion Picture (2013) and appearing on Travel Channel’s America Declassified (2013). Read more from Shep’s World. Get the Podcast. Follow Shep on Facebook and Twitter.