Each of the drones, now in their sixth generation of development, weigh less than a pound, with a body measuring just over six inches.
In a behind-the-scenes look at the story, "60 Minutes" said its regular news cameras couldn't film the drones' due to their size and rapid course changes. Three Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets launched 103 Perdix drones, which demonstrated swarm behaviour including collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing, the Pentagon said.
Named after the Greek mythology story of the student saved by the God Athena who transformed him into a small bird, Perdix weighs only 290g and is less than a foot wide.
The original design for the drones came from students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who designed them to be lightweight, functional and cheap. Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronised individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature. The devices are essentially controlled by an operator whose job is to predict the behavior of the swarm of drones, without ever having to manage each and every Perdix drone.
SCO Director William Roper says, "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".
In September 2014, Perdix was first air‐dropped from F‐16 flare canisters by the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base.
This same release said that both autonomous systems and machines such as these are being developed by the Department of Defense to "empower humans to make better decisions faster".
In September 2015, 90 Perdix missions were flown during U.S. Pacific Command's Northern Edge exercise in Alaska.
- The Pentagon has successfully tested the deployment of an army of micro-drones.
The US Department of Defence (DOD) said it had conducted one of the largest demonstrations of "swarming" micro drones in October at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California.
The drones are a pet project of the Strategic Capabilities Office, which is in turn part of the Pentagon's Third Offset Strategy.