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Ask Slashdot: Can You Identify This UAV? 232

Posted by timothy
from the it's-from-the-fuuuuuture dept.
garymortimer writes "It's not as sexy as the Beast of Kandahar RQ 170 Sentinel, or as well known as a Predator. But we think the bird-shaped drone that crashed in Pakistan last week might be a U.S. special forces tool. At first it was thought to be a homemade job, but packs with FMC (which means 'Fully Mission Capable') written on them, and an American date style as well, really points to something else. sUAS News is not AvWeek or Flight International so getting scoops is tricky whilst holding down a day job. Our exclusive pictures of the damaged C130 that struck an RQ170 was pretty good for us. We would love to identify this drone. Maybe it is just a homebrew job, maybe it's not. It's not a Festo Smartbird, though, the most popular choice of pundits."

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Ask Slashdot: Can You Identify This UAV?

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  • Its a... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TWX (665546) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @06:23PM (#37280702)

    This is an espresso machine. No, no wait. It's a snow cone maker...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Obviously it's a swamp-gas weather balloon manufactured by ACME.

    • Re:Its a... (Score:4, Informative)

      by cobrausn (1915176) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @06:31PM (#37280778)
      To the guy/gal that modded this Troll, it's a quote from True Lies. Cut TWX a break.
    • by JamesP (688957)

      No, it's swamp gas, or a weather balloon.

      Or maybe a common brushtail opossum

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      In related news, the US government's recently released report has proven that the mysterious UAV is, in fact, merely swamp gas.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      It is a badly made RC plane in some blokes shed somewhere in Bumfuckistan.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if some PMC took a contract for...oh say 40 million, from the USA and THAT is what we got for the money. it looks like some half assed thing you'd get if more was spent on paychecks and bribes than on the actual device.

        What is sad is that while we still can't afford healthcare, or doing anything about the flood of illegals and a border you could just walk a nuke through i bet my soon to be inflated to nothing last dollar if that is a USA UAV we paid waaaaaaay too much money

  • and I've seen a lot of shops~

    Seriously, it looks like the UAV the send out with recon groups.

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      Before anyone calls bullshit on the shop.......

      Look at a couple of things in the photo.

      First look at the rocks. That would be the hardest to alter to shadows on. This is either very early in the morning or right when the sun is setting. So the rocks are probably the most authentic part of the photo and could be used to match up the rest of it.

      Look at guy's shirt. The angle of the shadows *does* match the angle of the rocks. Look at the shapes too. What looks like "talons" on his shirt do look like they

      • by mhotchin (791085)

        Dude, the light source is almost certainly vehicle headlights. Not single source, not point, not distant.

  • It's a hs1fa@*ldk NO CARRIER

  • to install self destruct devices into "secret" new tech.
    • by chispito (1870390)
      It's just an RC airplane painted vaguely like a seagull. I don't see what the big deal is.
    • Except then someone gets killed when it blows up. Wether or not they are military / intelligence or public, the country owning the device is in a heap of bad PR and diplomatic pressure.

      Not saying right or wrong, the information or the tech might very well be life/death to protect .... just that you can NEVER win.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        A small price to pay to keep the top secret 'RC plane' tech from landing in the hands of the terrorist! What would happen if the started flying these into building~

    • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:04PM (#37281072)

      This does not look like a top secret device. No, really, it doesn't.

      It looks like a low cost "expendable" craft intended to fly over restricted air spaces.

      I say that because the wing and airframe profile appear to have been modeled on the "gliding" look and behavior of a large goose. It would be exremely wasteful of military ordinance to shoot down everything that looks like a goose 100ft in the air that flies over a restricted area.

      If I were to design such a craft, it would 1) be very slow and as near to silent as possible. 2) contain absolutely no stealth technologies that might give enemy engineers clues about our radar abilities, and 3) implement an FPGA based one time pad data encryption system to transmit recon data to the nearby recon team.

      Ths way if the craft crashes, gets shot down, or captured the expense of replacement is 1) very low due to nearly 100% plastic construction and cheap electronics. 2) data forensically uninteresting from either an engineering pov or from a data espianage point of view. 3) cannot be used to break mission critical data encryption technologies, due to 1:1 one time pad pairings, with quite possibly cheap commercial encryption methods. (256AES, etc.) By the time it is recovered and studied, that pad is black listed as belonging to an mia drone.

      This thing has "field recon" practically painted all over it. Lightweight plastic airframe, electronic only propulsion, small battery... all add up to being a disposable device with very short range, low airspeed, and short active runtimes.

      Whoever deployed this device was close by. (Unlike a predator which uses petrolium fuel and has a rigid metal airframe that can handle a reasonably fast cruise speed and can perform long mission flighttime, this device has none of those features, and as such cannot realistically be launched from miles away like a predator can.) This looks like it could well be a "backpack" type kit, that folds up for storage and portability. (That's how I would commision such a device anyway.)

      All that said, this kind of setup would lend itself well to commercial mass production, since nearly the entire airframe could be injection molded on the cheap. For similar reasons the design would lend itself well to hobby enthusiasts with access to fab labs. Having access to aviation grade CAD equipment, I would *LOVE* to get some detailed photos of every inch of the airframe (with a mm scale metric ruler in the shots) and of the internal cavities.

      I really would like to make some community models of this vehicle.

      • by snowgirl (978879) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @10:06PM (#37282136) Journal

        3) implement an FPGA based one time pad data encryption system to transmit recon data to the nearby recon team.

        I'm not sure if you're just not sure why a one-time pad encryption method is absolutely secure, and you're just throwing out buzzwords to sound like you'e providing security, or if you're thinking of a highly convoluted process that can be accomplished much more simply.

        Realistically, you need a true random pad to be generated and sent to both receiver and transmitter, and then once the pad is used, it need be "burned" (or otherwise reliably destroyed). As the pad needs to be generated prior to sending out the UAV, the whole transmitter could honestly be accomplished with a simple Z80, and a large store of RAM... there's no reason to complicate things by throwing an FPGA into the mix... if you intended the FPGA system to generate the pad on the fly, then that isn't a one-time pad... either the pad would end up being deterministic, and thus not be truly random (which I grant you, could still make the decryption intractable, but it wouldn't make it unbreakable, which is the whole purpose of a one-time pad... we have intractable encryption routines already, and they're well tested.), or it would need to additionally communicate the random pad to the receiver, which requires a secure transmission channel, and at that point, why not just transmit your communications through that channel instead?

        • by wierd_w (1375923)

          Agreed. The otp is transmitted between the base station and the uav at preflight over a physical data connection prior to activation of the radio com link. Eve would have to live in the data cable to get to the otp when it would matter.

          The fpga is indended for extensibility after production. (Say, field replacable modular optical devices, or other special purpose snap ins. The idea is to be able to totally change the way the system behaves without requiring a screwdriver and soldering iron.) It can also be

      • I say that because the wing and airframe profile appear to have been modeled on the "gliding" look and behavior of a large goose. It would be exremely wasteful of military ordinance to shoot down everything that looks like a goose 100ft in the air that flies over a restricted area.

        Yeah it might be wasteful, but it would also be a hell of a lot of fun!
      • If I were to design such a craft, it would 1) be very slow and as near to silent as possible. 2) contain absolutely no stealth technologies that might give enemy engineers clues about our radar abilities, and 3) implement an FPGA based one time pad data encryption system to transmit recon data to the nearby recon team.

        You don't think the constant stream of radio data coming out of the thing would give it away?

        • by wierd_w (1375923)

          You mean like all the other low power broadcasting devices all over that would give false positives, on top of the wasted logistics of aiming rf sniffers up every transient bird's bum?

          The idea is that it looks like a bird, and the enemy base crew rightly ignores it. It is a social engineering hack to gain unauthorized intelligence access.

          Much like people in call centers don't to background checks on everyone that calls, (and thus fall victim to such attacks), the ground crews of restricted areas don't chec

      • If I were to design such a craft, it would 1) be very slow and as near to silent as possible. 2) contain absolutely no stealth technologies that might give enemy engineers clues about our radar abilities, and 3) implement an FPGA based one time pad data encryption system to transmit recon data to the nearby recon team.

        Ths way if the craft crashes, gets shot down, or captured the expense of replacement is 1) very low due to nearly 100% plastic construction and cheap electronics. 2) data forensically uninteresting from either an engineering pov or from a data espianage point of view. 3) cannot be used to break mission critical data encryption technologies, due to 1:1 one time pad pairings, with quite possibly cheap commercial encryption methods. (256AES, etc.) By the time it is recovered and studied, that pad is black listed as belonging to an mia drone.

        Good design ideas, but I don't think you quite grasp the concept of one-time-pad:

        • AES256 is not a one-time pad but a symmetric key algorithm
        • No need to blacklist a one-time pad if compromised, as you are supposed to use it only one time anyways. That's why it's called one-time pad after all...: Reusing a one-time pad compromises its integrity. However keys for AES would indeed need to get blacklisted if caught.
    • by EdIII (1114411)

      Yet not smart enough to secure data in enemy territory and allow a private to gain access to it and walk away from it?

      I think we have some pretty impressive "big boom" technologies and their associated delivery systems, but other than that, I would not automatically assume they are doing everything possible to secure it after it has been shot down. It would have to be some pretty redundant and resilient self destruct technology to withstand whatever caused it to go down in the first place. Not to mention,

  • by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Thursday September 01, 2011 @06:39PM (#37280844) Homepage

    To my (somewhat) trained eye, this looks like any other R/C airplane run by amateurs who fly them strictly within line of sight (though many have been putting FPV equipment so they can fly them with a first person view, often a few miles away.)

    From time to time our R/C planes do malfunction and will fly off out of our control, or something will go wrong and they'll crash and we won't be able to find and recover them. Perhaps it's just some hobbyist's plane that got away from him? It certainly looks like something a hobbyist made rather than an expensive commercial/military model.

    Though I guess this does bode poorly for the hobby -- ham radio operators don't bring their radios with them when they go to many countries because people often equate radios with spies ... I guess the next step is to equate people flying R/C planes with spies?

    • by mbone (558574)

      You don't generally get too many hobbyists in war zones.

      • by Skidborg (1585365)
        From what I've seen and heard, there are actually surprisingly large number of R/C hobbyists in the military. Sometimes those toys find their way into the line of fire. [dailymail.co.uk]
      • by mrmeval (662166)

        War isn't a hobby of the US?

  • by Foo2rama (755806) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @06:43PM (#37280874) Homepage Journal
    I think Bellisario should sue... They totally ripped off the Airwolf intro music.


    On a side note I love how they took the festo smart bird video and dirtied it up to look military lol...

    http://www.festo.com/cms/en_corp/11369_11439.htm#id_11439 [festo.com]
  • Do you really think that anyone who could identify that UAV, provided that it's a UAV, would respond to your question?
    Let's reason.
    Those who really can do it would be among:
    - people from the company who built it
    - people from the DoD who required/bought it
    - people from the army/company who operated it
    - spies from a dozen of countries.
    Now check one by one these categories. None will answer here as a comment. And not even as a private message, as Slashdot has none and because online stuff is traceable.
    I would

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      as Slashdot has none and because online stuff is traceable

      Hah!!

      I'm surfing incognito right now with that special agent looking guy icon in the browser. Try and trace me now....

  • by DarkOx (621550) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:11PM (#37281132) Journal

    In the world of unacknowledged weapons and surveillance systems pretty much anything could be anything. Just because someone slapped some US military lingo and American formatted dates does not mean anything. Maybe it was built by someone who had been in the States and thought nothing of it but is not connected with the US officially, maybe someone else made it and used surplus American components, maybe someone wanted to try and embarrass the US by making it look American, maybe someone else is spying and does not want it know so just made the thing to look American encase it was captured.

    Just off the top of my head it could be:
    ISI
    CIA
    Israel
    Some engineering students who have been recruited by extremists
    A hobbyist

  • by Megahard (1053072) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:12PM (#37281138)
    Somebody lost it in a bar.
  • Whoever built it was intent on convincing people on the ground that it's nothing more than a vulture circling overhead for the past 3 days.

    • by Thing 1 (178996)
      Yeah, reminds me of that scene from Rango where the bats grouped together and emulated a hawk to scare Rattlesnake Jake. Briefly. :)
  • Bird UAV (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EEPROMS (889169) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:30PM (#37281234)
  • they are surprisingly inexpensive ($500 plus some labor w/ analog video downlink). they are also likely to have been repaired quite frequently (that is if you're lucky and didn't leave a pile of kindle your last encounter with gravity).

    on an unrelated note, it's fun to watch confirmation bias in the wild.

  • by rlp (11898) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @08:02PM (#37281452)

    or a red and blue striped golfing umbrella.

  • by hort_wort (1401963) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @08:43PM (#37281726)

    This is clearly a marketing ruse to encourage us to buy SilverHawks on DVD, which has a cyber-bird named Tally Hawk.
    Hmmmm it appears to only be $10 now....

  • I think it is that paper airplane I threw over the cube wall.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2011 @09:13PM (#37281856)

    This website: http://defensetech.org/2011/08/29/mystery-drone-crash-in-pakistan/#more-14195

    Notes that this Drone is likely a modified Lockheed Martin Desert Hawk. From the looks of it, it very well could be.

  • Homemade Job? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Taty'sEyes (2373326) <admin@eyesofodessa.com> on Thursday September 01, 2011 @11:04PM (#37282378) Homepage
    While not very technically advanced, I'd say (based on my R/C and Military experience) that this is in fact some type of close recon UAV, deployed out of a backpack. These guys that are "interrogating" the craft are probably very lucky they weren't the intended target, as the person that launched it is probably on the next hill.

    I will add to the date controversy with this tidbit. The US Military writes their dates Day/Month/Year. It was one of the first things I had to learn. Hell I still do it to this day. I get asked all the time why I use the European convention. Then I have to explain, "no, it's the military convention".

    So let me suggest that it was deployed by an American, "civilian" organization? Who could that be?
    • by MarkusH (198450)

      You know, if I was hired to run a convoy of supply trucks near a war zone, dropping a thousand dollars on a cheap UAV plus operator in the front cab seems like a wise investment. He could keep an eye out for ambushes, someone setting up IEDs, or even road problems that might delay us. I might even be able to expense it, depending on the contract.

  • Harry Hamlin gotta eat!

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