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The Perdix drones are 3D-printed out of Kevlar and carbon-fiber. Powered by lithium-ion batteries — the same kind you’d find in a cell phone — the Perdixes launch from a standard flare dispenser, like on the F-16, F/A-18 and other warplanes.
Toughness was a key design requirement. A Perdix must survive forceful ejection from a high-speed launcher and right itself in turbulent winds.
The drones were originally developed by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011. The students tested the Perdixes from balloons and envisioned the small unmanned aerial vehicles supporting environmental monitoring.
But it was the military that was most interested in the tiny machines. The Virginia-based Strategic Capabilities Office — a 26-person team led by William Roper, a physicist who previously worked for the military on missile defense — began experimenting with Perdix in 2014.