Swarm of military mini drones remote-controlled by collective intelligence

One of the 103 Perdix mini drones remote-controlled by collective artificial intelligence. © DR

103 Perdix mini drones swarmed in the sky thanks to collective artificial intelligence, announced the secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense on January 9. The operation was conducted by the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), created in 2012 by the Obama administration to accelerate the integration of civil technological development into U.S. defense systems. Like a contemporary version of the eighth plague of biblical Egypt (invasion of locusts), the system was tested on October 26, 2016, above China Lake in California, to see how the swarm would act without knowing its task before launch.

Release of the swarming Perdix drones:

The video uploaded by the U.S. Department of Defense shows 103 20-centimeter drones, once released from three Super Hornet fighter jets, behaving collectively and autonomously. SCO director William Roper explained: “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.”

These drones were originally designed by MIT engineering students in 2010-2011 for the Air Vehicle Survivability Workshop, then modified to match the specifications of government and military uses. The October test was the sixth version of the swarm. The drones’ resistance was considerably increased so that they could withstand violent impacts at Mach 0.6 (approximately 740 km/h) during launch and resist freezing temperatures nearing -10°C. Furthermore, the swarm remains functional even if several elements have been destroyed… foreshadowing large (and terrifying) operational capacities.

Makery newsletter

Biweekly, all the labs news you need to know.