15 July 2012

On the Path to Autonomous, Insect Sized Hunter Killers

More 23 July 2012: Brian Wang Looks at Mini Drones and Autonomous Micro Air Vehicles

via NBF

Raytheon's small, 2 foot laser guided bomb is virtually ready to roll out.
The drone war could be shrinking faster than anyone expected. Raytheon’s teeny, tiny drone bomb might be ready to arm a small drone within months, the defense giant says.

...That would open new worlds of possibility for the U.S. drone arsenal. There are a lot more small drones than there are Preds and Reapers. The small-fry robots are used as flying spies, since they’re too lightweight to arm — until now. The Small Tactical Munition is supposed to arm the Shadow, a drone that’s only 12 feet long. The U.S. fleet of killer drones would significantly increase.

...having an armed Shadow to launch would be a big asset to a commando team in, say, East Africa. Smaller also means cheaper, and easier to deploy. _Wired

Special forces recon and strike teams could easily pack a small squadron of mini-drones behind enemy lines, for either reconnaissance or lethal attack missions. Armed with either laser guided mini-bombs or mini-missiles, such teams would have expanded reach for superior real-time intelligence-gathering and target destruction.

Earlier article on Raytheon's Small Tactical Munition

Here are more plans for mini-drones and munitions being developed for special operations:
The petite, 13-foot Tigershark drone, already used for surveillance and reconnaissance, will be outfitted with an even smaller drone — developed by Air Force researchers under the Precision Acquisition and Weaponized System program — that doubles as a warhead. The baby drone would detach from its Tigershark mother and relay real-time video to ground support as it was directed toward a target and then detonated on impact.

...Several military branches and drone companies are working on teeny-tiny robotic killers. The Acturus drone, which is the aerial equivalent of a compact car and carries a 10-pound missile, is currently undergoing military tests, and earlier this year the Army doled out $4.9 million for “rapid fielding” of AeroVironment’s Switchblade suicide drone, essentially a tiny flying robot with a death wish.

The logic behind these teenier missiles and self-detonating drones (sometimes inside bigger drones!) is simple: A smaller boom and a more targeted explosion — right through the car windshield, for example — keeps unnecessary damage to a minimum. _Wired
The size of these tiny killer-drones is quickly shrinking, so that it will not be long before lethal drone packages can be delivered under stealth in the form of birds, bats, or insects -- right in the lap of an enemy base or command and control centre.

It has become clear to militaries that remote controlled drones are subject to being hacked, hijacked, or having their communications jammed. Consequently, there is a rush to develop semi-autonomous or fully-autonomous drones capable of carrying out a mission after communications is lost.

Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap 2011 (PDF) describes some of the US' future plans for unmanned military robots and drones.

China is also hard at work developing sophisticated drone weapons systems:
New Scientist reports that the Chinese are developing what they call “genetic algorithms” that will be used in their pilot-less drones to teach them to “think.” According to the report: “A genetic algorithm is one that works much like natural evolution. It narrows down search results, weeding out the weaker, off-topic responses, and recombining the ‘stronger’ returned values into a better hybridized result.”

These Chinese drones, which will be used to hunt submarines, will be programmed to hunt to some degree on their own by responding and adapting to such things as changing weather patterns, fuel consumption and sonar readings. —— _AFP

So, when should we expect stealthy bird-like or insect-like killer drones?

Why do you ask? Do you have a guilty conscience?

Heh! Just kidding. The simplest and most credible answer is that they are already here, but they are not yet autonomous. And once autonomous, there is no guarantee that they will ever be trusted with more than simple reconnaissance. It seems to me that tiny, undetectable spies should be quite enough, without also making them autonomous killers.

But, perhaps I am being a bit naive.

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Blogger Matt M said...

If you deploy a weapon like this - it better have an autodestruct sequence that reduces the components to slag after a certain period of time. (Maybe an internal acid tank that ruptures and destroys the electronics.) Otherwise, we will be looking down the barrel of our own gun. Presidents and Popes will be slaughtered.

Monday, 16 July, 2012  
Blogger neil craig said...

One problem with nukes is what do we do if somebody sets off a suitcase sized one but we don't know who. It seems to me this is likely to be a greater problem with these. If Obama gets his head blown off how will we know if it was done by bad Chinese, Russians, drug lords or by good Israelis, survivalists or Sheldon, or in between - the CIA?

Wednesday, 18 July, 2012  

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