A total of 103 of the miniature, unmanned flying vehicles were released from a trio of Three F/A-18 Super Hornets, a popular Navy fighter aircraft.
Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals but act like a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature, said SCO Director William Roper.
As one colleague put it (with admirable understatement), "this could be important". "This demonstration will advance our development of autonomous systems".
Meanwhile, the DOD giving "60 Minutes" exclusive access to document a test of autonomous drones, and then using the Pentagon-friendly segment to promote the new technology, had raised questions of ethicality of collaboration between the USA military and the supposedly independent CBS programme. This test was run by the SCO, Naval Air Systems Command, and MIT Lincoln Laboratory (where the drone was developed), all participated and ran this demonstration.
The Perdix swarm demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing.
The SCO was created by the US Defence Secretary Ash Carter in 2012 when he was the deputy defence secretary.
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.
During the "60 Minutes" segment, presenter David Martin describes the drone swarm as "military reality" and ponders the implications of machines being able to make decisions faster and maybe even better than humans.
Engineers and scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory modified the unmanned system, which is now on its sixth generation, in 2013 for military use. Drawing inspiration from the commercial smartphone industry, Perdix software and hardware has been continually updated in successive design generations. The drones are capable of withstanding ejection at speeds of up to Mach 0.6 and temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius.
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