Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics Security Hardware

Robots Guarding US Nuclear Stockpiles In Nevada 128

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the no-disassemble-johnny-five dept.
kkleiner writes "The US National Nuclear Security Administration recently announced that it has started using autonomous robot vehicles to patrol the vast desert surrounding its Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The 1360+ square miles of territory is home to millions of tons of low grade nuclear waste, as well as Cold War Era nuclear weapons, and cutting edge nuclear testing research. Guarding those precious nuclear materials is the Mobile Detection Assessment Response System (MDARS) robot, which is essentially a camera on a mini-Hummer. The MDARS can roam and scout the desert on its own, alerting a remote operator when it encounters something that shouldn't be there."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Robots Guarding US Nuclear Stockpiles In Nevada

Comments Filter:
  • by jamesdood (468240) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:28PM (#33872870)

    I mean they are robots, guarding nuclear weapons....

  • nuke? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by bhcompy (1877290)
    So you've got a robot guarding Nuke. Sounds familiar....
  • Automated robots (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258)

    Tedious, dangerous, time-consuming tasks should be done by robots.

    I'm still sad my Roomba doesn't empty, clean, and charge itself. I suppose it could, but that would probably be the last step before self awareness, and we all know how that will go.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Yvan256 (722131)

      Doesn't the Roomba automatically go back to its charging station after it's done cleaning?

      The only thing missing, AFAIK, it's the "empty itself" part. I'm puzzled over that one because they could simply add a "garbage can" part to the charging station...

      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        If the Roomba could empty itself and clean its brush off, I would gladly pay twice as much for one.

      • It would add to the cost of the Roomba. We have one and we're happy with it, aside from having to clean it out frequently by hand. Nevertheless, it cost over $300, and that was already a little more than we wanted to spend. Paying another $100-200 for self-cleaning would have kept us from buying it.

        If you have carpeted floors, I definitely recommend it. It's pretty thorough. You'll be shocked at first at the amount of crap it will pull out.
      • Doesn't the Roomba automatically go back to its charging station after it's done cleaning?

        The only thing missing, AFAIK, it's the "empty itself" part. I'm puzzled over that one because they could simply add a "garbage can" part to the charging station...

        It depends on the level of roomba -- both my roomba and my scooba have standard wall-wart chargers that I have to plug in by hand. But really that isn't the limiting factor: the brushes get stuff in them, particularly hair, and that more than anything else is the most difficult maintenance task.

        They also have a paper filter in front of the main debris container, that has to be manually removed; automating that into a 'garbage can' sort of setup, would be tricky. Old-fashioned vacuums used a disposable pa

    • that would probably be the last step before self awareness, and we all know how that will go.

      Why is it that I just got an image from the second Transformers stuck in my head where that stupid little robot starts dry humping Megan Fox's leg like a dog?

    • by corbettw (214229) <.corbettw. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:30PM (#33874860) Journal

      Tedious, dangerous, time-consuming tasks should be done by robots.

      My wife says the same thing. But I keep telling her, steel and ceramic vaginas just don't do it for me.

    • Thank you!

      i just checked again what a roomba costs, and i can get one for 300 bucks, that is gonna be awesome in the new house, i can have my very own robot underling vacuming the wooden floor in the living room/kitchen!

  • by Tanks*Guns (587234) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:32PM (#33872946)
    "...alerting a remote operator when it encounters something that shouldn't be there."

    People
    Large Animals
    Vehicles
    John Connor
    Other Robots
    • by sjs132 (631745)

      If I worked on this project and wrote code for it, I'd put lots of John Connor / Terminator comments in the code documentation. It would be so much fun for future coders that try and fix a bug and have to read those comments.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        You can use this stuff if you want to.

        We suggest that you write your own.

        In our opinion, it has achieved true user hostility.

    • by ajlitt (19055)

      OCP Executive

  • Please write down your post. You have 20 seconds to comply.
  • by 0123456 (636235) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:35PM (#33873026)

    I was on a tour of the Nevada test site a few months back and didn't see any robots running around, I guess they weren't operating at that point. It's a pretty interesting place to see if you ever get the chance, and so big that I can understand why they want robots patrolling 24/7.

    And the tour guide claimed that years ago a visitor was accidentally left behind in a portapotty near one of the craters, so at least if it happens again they'll be able to flag down a passing robot. Assuming it doesn't go all Terminator on their ass.

    • by jluzwick (1465485)

      "Must have missed it "

      The article states they have only recently deployed one with two more to be deployed in the coming months. This is probably why you didn't see it.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The article states they have only recently deployed one with two more to be deployed in the coming months. This is probably why you didn't see it.

        I still think I prefer the ninja robot option :).

    • by Wraithlyn (133796) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:49PM (#33874310)

      Of course you didn't seem them... they're ninja robots.

    • I think they tell that porta-potty story to every group. I went on a tour a while back and we went inside the Ice Cap tower. It was a bit spooky. The whole rig's just been hanging there since 1993 (minus the warhead, of course). I couldn't resist giving the rig a slight shove to make it swing.

      Now I want to go again and see if I can spot one of the surveillance units. I imagine they'd be cruising around the perimeter of the waste disposal area.

  • by John3 (85454) <(moc.sllenroc) (ta) (3nhoj)> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:38PM (#33873078) Homepage Journal

    This seems like an excellent use of robotic patrol vehicles. Driving around on patrol in that desert is a tedious assignment and the chance that someone might actually show up out there to steal old nuclear waste is pretty low. If the robotic vehicle detects anything unusual there is plenty of time to get people (or the next generation of vehicular robot?) out to the site to investigate further and/or stop the perps.

    • by swb (14022)

      But this is probably meant to reduce manpower overall, so it's conceivable that several of these could be tricked into false positive detection, resulting in the remaining humans being forced to go on a wild goose chase and leaving the site more vulnerable.

      • Not really. You'd send out units from a secondary site relatively nearby (like a nearby military base), not from the main site.
      • by John3 (85454)

        I assume that the initial detection would be susceptible to "false positive" but once a human operator takes over the video camera and sensors they would be able to accurately evaluate whatever the robot detected. At that point, they could dispatch personnel, or maybe even send in a drone to do a flyover.

    • If I want to steal cold-war nuclear weapons, I would build a robot that appears just like that, in case a run-in encounter is unavoidable.

      Also, the radio signal that these robots emit is like a beacon saying "I'm coming, triangulate me."

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:40PM (#33873118)
    What happens north of New Vegas... stays north of New Vegas.

    (When I first saw a picture of the thing, I thought it was an asset from Fallout:New Vegas. It's a Robobrain come to life... awesome! :)

    These things could actually have civilian applications. Scatter a bunch over Death Valley or other remote areas, and partner 'em with a high-altitude drone overlooking the area for stranded motorists or backcountry hikers, and send an autonomous mount with a few gallons of water after 'em after a few hours of immobility. It'll have pretty decent odds of getting there in time to help, and the remote operator can then talk with the hiker/motorist to determine what sort of human intervention (if any) is necessary.

    • That's actually a cool idea. The "autonomous mount" could be a BigDog [bostondynamics.com].
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      a small missle or grenade launcher with a bottle of water in it...

      What? a standard bottle of water in the chest at 300 miles an hour wont hurt too bad.

    • You may not be aware of this, but most people who go out hiking in desert and wilderness areas are trying to get away from civilization for a while. I would find it extremely annoying, after having settled in for the evening or while trying to take a siesta, to have a robot intrude and offer me water. Given how most programming works, over and over and over again. Stranded motorists will be by the road; backcountry hikers won't want the interruption; about the only places where what you're proposing would
      • You may not be aware of this, but most people who go out hiking in desert and wilderness areas are trying to get away from civilization for a while. I would find it extremely annoying, after having settled in for the evening or while trying to take a siesta, to have a robot intrude and offer me water. Given how most programming works, over and over and over again.

        the desert border crossings, and I'm pretty sure that if we send robots into that area, they won't be offering water to those the drones are tracking.

        LOL - Yes they will. Probably tacos too. Obligatory Obama comment.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nukes guard robots!

  • This system is really cool, and the NNSA is already working on it's successor, the Mobile Identification Assessment Response System (MiARS). The MiARS ai-addon will figure out if what it detects is a terrorist, a vandal, an illegal immigrant or an innocent hiker lost in the desert and take appropriate action. Terrorists will be killed but for illegal immigrants they plan to just demonstrate MiARS's bare capabilities in hopes that the alien will be scared back across the border.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      for illegal immigrants they plan to just demonstrate MiARS's bare capabilities in hopes that the alien will be scared back across the border.

      Possible (if improbable) outcomes:

      1. MiARS up on blocks, stripped of wheels and valuable metals.

      2. MiARS repurposed, with a new paint job and much lower suspension.

      3. MiARS obsoleted: Opponent is willing to do the dull, dirty, dangerous task for much less than the cost of maintaining MiARS.

  • This is an excellent idea, until someone builds an army of mobile refrigerators with gun turrets.

    Then, NOTHING will be able to stop them! Not even accidental detonations!
  • Only crazy guys around who shouldn't be there anyway or staff. Next application is the US-Mexican border I would guess.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by sjs132 (631745)

      Yes because once they find the undocumented workers, they could use it to guide them to water, weapons caches and drop off points. Sounds like a plan to me... Must guarantee the flow of blow to Whitehouse parties...

  • Skynet and the matrix????

  • Now where are all of the burnout ex-military PTSD cases going to work?

  • Just one more thing for hackers to try and mess with.
  • by xednieht (1117791)
    Lasers on Sharks > Camera on Mini-Hummer
  • Having spent some time in that land, I can assure you that this robot will be covered with rifle bullet holes and shotgun pellet patterns within the month.

  • ...wellllll, I feel safe.
  • I saw this technology on "Beyond 2000" back before ... 2000. It was really freaking cool ten years ago. Good to see it's being put to use. HOWEVER, I do realize there is more to this than driving a loop watching for stuff, but wouldn't it be a much more effective use of technology to mount the imaging stuff on a rail car? That way it doesn't have to worry about navigation. Or flat tires. And we're pretty damn good at making rails these days.

    Hey! Someone mount a Vulcan AA gun on that thing!

    http://en.wikipedi [wikipedia.org]

    • by geekoid (135745)

      the problem with rails int et the vehicle will be on rails. It can't do somplace to check something out.

      Also, cost.

  • Hummer? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Virmal (1281900) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @02:55PM (#33874400)
    They are trying to save money and they are using a mini Hummer?? How many gallons to the mile?
    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yes, they should sue a prius out on the off road terrain~ This is th right vehicle for the job.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      They are trying to save money and they are using a mini Hummer?? How many gallons to the mile?

      After you've figured that out, can you convert it to a completely different yet obsolete and inconsistent measurement system like hogsheads to the furlong.

  • I call BS (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Not too long ago I had a NNSA contract and before we were allowed to drive on the NTS we had to take a course in how to not run over desert tortoises and other wildlife we might encounter (you were supposed to move the tortoise gently to the other side of the road). And that was just to get to drive cars on paved roads. Now they are going to let this offroad gizmo roam by itself and only phone home if it sees an anomaly?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I know it goes without saying, BUT, why doesn't the thing have a laser? Wouldn't soldiers with access to the camera also want access the trigger? Just wondering...

  • If I recall correctly, every year there is a DARPA challenge to have autonomous vehicles navigate a desert terrain in the US ... perhaps in Nevada itself. I wounder if this research is somehow related in that they might be using the results of these experiments on the vehicles in question for this article. I guess the best thing so far is they aren't armed .... yet anyways.

  • Then skynet gets launched...

  • If you've read Daemon [amazon.com] and/or Freedom [amazon.com] by Daniel Suarez, this sounds like the Hummers guarding Matthew Sobol's house. There's other autonomous vehicles, but I won't give anything else away.

As the trials of life continue to take their toll, remember that there is always a future in Computer Maintenance. -- National Lampoon, "Deteriorata"

Working...