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US Military Tests New Micro-Drone

The U.S. Department of Defense has released video of three F/A-18 Superhornet jets deploying a swarm of 103 Perdix drones, a new addition to the U.S. military arsenal.

The drones, which have not yet seen combat, are likely to be used for surveillance applications, a military analyst told the BBC.

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With wingspans of 1 foot, the units are small enough to evade air defense systems such as surface-to-air missiles.

''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,'' said William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office.

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''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.''

Perdix drones are an important development in the field of artificial intelligence, according to Seeker. The functionality of Perdix drones shows potential in programming small groups of human-controlled robots to act in a sophisticated way.

''The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing,'' said the Pentagon in a statement.

Officials are now looking into how Perdix drones could be applied to out-maneuvering enemy defenses, which are designed to target larger, faster aircraft.

''When looking at how you deal with air defense systems that are optimized to spot very large, fast-moving aircraft, small, cheap disposable drones seem to be one solution,'' explained Elizabeth Quintana, an official at the Royal United Services Institute.

Not only are they small and maneuverable, they are also relatively inexpensive to manufacture.

Perdix drones are the brain children of Defense Secretary Ash Carter's Strategic Capabilities Office, a unit established to oversee the merger of cutting-edge technology and military power.

More specifically, the department seeks to join artificial intelligence with new weapon systems.

The Perdix drones were originally designed by engineering students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013.

Sources: BBC, Seeker / Photo credit: Mike Reeder/Flickr