Autonomous vehicle research has been speculated to behind several recent rashes of UFO sightings around the world. Dozens of residents in southwest England have reported seeing strange flying craft, occasionally being chased by helicopters. Due to that area's proximity to a joint U.S./U.K. Air Force base, the most common explanation for the unusually high number of UFO sightings around Devon, England is that the sightings are merely due to tests of new technology, most likely unmanned autonomous vehicles. Drones have also been reported to be the likely explanations for a number of North American sightings lately. As unmanned aerial vehicles become smaller and more available to the public, it’s likely that such “UFO” sightings will continue.

Toy store quadcopter + cheap LED strips = instant UFO.

To add fuel to that speculative fire, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced the successful test of an autonomous swarm of Perdix drones. The drones were designed by MIT researchers (of course) and weigh around a pound (.4 kg) each. Perdix drones are made from typical off-the-shelf drone components, making them easy to quickly mass produce.

The drones are small and inexpensive, making them an ideal weapon.

According to a DoD press release, the drones were a joint project between the DoD, the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), and the Naval Air Systems Command.

William Roper, director of the SCO, stated in the press release that these autonomous drones are capable of behaving much like a flock of birds or school of fish, sharing information and making split-second group decisions on their own:

Due to the complex nature of combat, 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. 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.

The drones have already been hailed as the “latest super weapon.” Swarms of these drones could still function even if individual units have been shot down by enemy air defenses, enabling them to carry out missions even in the face of opposition. The U.S. military is so enthused with the technology that one thousand swarms are already in production in order to fulfill surveillance and reconnaissance duties.

A drone swarm approaches its target. Must look terrifying from the ground.

However, some sources have pointed out just how risky these autonomous drone swarms could be. Since they make decisions on their own, they might be prone to malfunction or misbehavior. What would happen if one of these “collective organisms” broke loose?  The next big thing in UFO sightings very well could be swarms of tiny bird-like objects, swirling in strange patterns in the sky. Sure beats the worn out ol’ flying saucer.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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