William Roper, director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, demonstrates micro-drones his office is testing through a program named Perdex. (Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

A micro-drone developed by students at MIT with support from the pentagon Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has been operationally evaluated by the US Air Force in simulated combat wargames held in Alaska in 2015. According to Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post, Over 100 micro drones were used during the Northern Edge exercise.

The drone known as ‘Perdix’ has a low drag fiberglass fuselage, attached to spring loaded carbon fiber wings designed with custom airfoils. The rear wings have winglets and elevons for flight control. The drone uses a miniature electrical engine driving a custom pusher propeller to keep the drone airborne for the duration of the mission. The drone draws power for propulsion and on-board systems and sensors from a pack of lithium polymer batteries located in up front

Developed by students in MIT since 2011, Perdix was tested in 2014 by the SCO. During these tests the drone was packed into a chaff tube and released from the F-16s chaff and flare dispenser on a high-speed pass from an F-16 at an altitude of 2,000 ft. over Alaska. Upon release the drone is slowed by a parachute and pulled from the chaff canister. Following a short descent its wings are folded and the drone initiates a loitering pattern, simulating an ISR mission.

Perdix micro drone ejection from a flare dispenser. Photo: MIT
Perdix micro drone ejection from a flare dispenser. Photo: MIT
It also activates a communications link to coordinate its flight with other Perdix drones in the area, and link back to its operators. During the test that was part Exercise Northern Edge 2015 the Air Force simultaneously deployed dozens of Perdix drones from fighter jets, to test their operability as a ‘swarm’.

The Perdix air launched micro drone uses miniature 3D printed micro-drones that are designed for high-speed ejection over the target area. Folded into a tube, Perdix fits into a standard flare canister carried by F-16, F-15 or F/A-18 fighter jets.

The Perdix program evolved from a scientific project at MIT. In 2011 the MIT students at the school of engineering successfully designed, constructed, and flew ground and balloon-launched micro UAVs that supported airborne environmental monitoring. They also ejected the drone from flare ejectors. Photo: MIT
The Perdix program evolved from a scientific project at MIT. In 2011 the MIT students at the school of engineering successfully designed, constructed, and flew ground and balloon-launched micro UAVs that supported airborne environmental monitoring. They also ejected the drone from flare ejectors. Photo: MIT
[ismember]
An F-16 carrying two Miniature Air Launched decoys under wing. This aircraft will also be able to carry Perdix micro drones in its ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser. Although the two systems are designed for different missions and are not comparable in their operational range, the swarm capable Perdix offers much promise, despite its small size and limited endurance. Photo: Raytheon
An F-16 carrying two Miniature Air Launched decoys under wing. This aircraft will also be able to carry Perdix micro drones in its ALE-47 countermeasures dispenser. Although the two systems are designed for different missions and are not comparable in their operational range, the swarm capable Perdix offers much promise, despite its small size and limited endurance. Photo: Raytheon
[/ismember]