The U.S. Department of Defense's once secret Strategic Capabilities Office, partnered with Naval Air Systems Command, announced a successful demonstration of a new autonomous system known as a micro-drone swarm at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, California.
The demonstration consisted of 103 Perdix drones launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornets. The drones are built to think on their own with advanced capabilities including "collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing," according to the Department of Defense, which spends $3 billion annually on autonomous systems development.
Originally designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering students, "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,” said SCO Director William Roper.
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"Cheap and expendable, Perdix tries to make a soft landing but it’s no great loss if it crashes into the ground. Perdix can be used as decoys to confuse enemy air defenses or equipped with electronic transmitters to jam their radars," Roper told CBS's "60 Minutes."
The new technology is one of the first Pentagon initiatives to use teams of small, inexpensive, autonomous systems to take the place of larger more expensive systems, but Roper insists the Defense Department's visions for future warfare is still one in which human beings "will always be in the loop."