The screaming, high-pitched whirring of hundreds of swarming drone motors might be the terrifying soundtrack to warfare of the future, if a new video released by the Department of Defense is any indication.
Footage released shows three F/A-18 Super Hornets dropping a swarm of 103 Perdix micro-drones for a flight demonstration. The drone swarm then buzzes around a number of targets and moves into formations over the desert at China Lake, California. This new, risky technology is the product of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, and Perdix drones are expected to augment the U.S. military drone fleet, potentially by the end of 2017.
Each Perdix weighs about a pound and is about the size of a sheet of paper. The drones use drone swarm technology the military has been working on for the past year and can operate in an autonomous swarm to engage a target. It would be nearly impossible for a person to control this many drones at once, so their overall motions are called by operators, but the specifics are left to the swarm. Here, you can see the Perdix fleet, in green, receive a command to move to a different location, and then swarm around a single point.
Like an insect colony of nightmarish war-machines, all the drones in a swarm are constantly talking with each other, forming what is basically a hive-mind with no specific leader. This allows the drone swarm to adapt to new information as a collective, and not a series of individually controlled machines.
With less than 20 minutes of battery life in this generation, Perdix swarms still have to get rid of some bugs before they are fully operational. This could be as early as the end of 2017, with updated software to make them even more autonomous. Drone swarm technology has a variety of other applications as well, including search and rescue missions, but their application in combat is something the military fully expects on the future’s battlefields (but don’t worry, it’s prepared).
The public fact sheet on Perdix says that the military is looking to produce 1,000 of these drones by the end of the year. So take the buzzing of a hundred drones captured at the end of this footage, and imagine it amped up to the sound of 1,000 of these guys. Pretty terrifying stuff.