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Robotics The Military

Air Force Planning New Drone Fleet For Pakistan 240

mattnyc99 writes "With tensions high on the border, a new commander in Afghanistan, and complaints of civilian deaths from robotic US strikes in Pakistan raising anti-American sentiment, the Air Force is sketching out concepts for new robotic hitmen, reports Esquire.com. Among the new drones (which are all very small) are the Suburb Warrior (loaded with four or five mini missiles for semi-urban environments), the Sniper targeting system ("that can lock on to multiple targets, allowing a single drone pilot to coordinate the attacks of a squadron of robots"), and a backup fleet of flying buggies that act as suicide-bomber snipers. From the article: 'Picking through the dozens of systems in this briefing, many of which will be flight-tested within five years, there's a clear set of goals: build smaller, even microscopic drones with smaller weapons that can hunt in swarms and engage targets in the close quarters of urban battlefields. And hunt as soon as possible.'"
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Air Force Planning New Drone Fleet For Pakistan

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  • by arizwebfoot ( 1228544 ) * on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:39PM (#28367337)
    Esquire.com top 3 stories:
    This one.
    The greatest karaoke song of all time.
    How the american man "really" spends his day.

    Not sure that I would put all my magical beans into that lone basket.
  • loss of ressources (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dwarfenhoschi ( 1494927 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @06:46PM (#28367393) Journal
    When i hear something like that i must always think about what cool stuff all those scientists could have made if they would have put there efforts into something usefull like Space travel or something...im sure we could have a freaking warp drive *g*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:04PM (#28367557)
    If bad guys get hand on this technology which seems likely because these flying creatures will be ubiquitous and in close contact then no one will be safe even presidents of countries .
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:19PM (#28367693)

    Seriously, it's 2009 can we please cut the bullshit? I'm so god-damn sick of hearing about this or that military technology wasting billions of dollars that could otherwise be spent doing any number of more worthy things.

    Can we please go out and work on cancer, or alternative energy, or space travel, or designer gold plated diamond encrusted dildos. ANYTHING is better spending more money on yet another way to kill people.

  • by tbischel ( 862773 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:31PM (#28367757)

    The more "harmless" wars start to look, the easier it will be for politicians to convince the public to go to war.

    One could argue that the opposite has been seen over the past century, as mobilization of antiwar sentiment happens earlier and earlier over the course of progressively less costly wars (in terms of American casualties). I would argue that the effects of mass media far out-trump an effective military when it comes to gaining popular support.

  • by dwarfenhoschi ( 1494927 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:34PM (#28367773) Journal
    ok maybe i did say it a bit wrong...i dont want to say that there is no development through this, i just think those things should be developed for civil uses and then for military uses (which will ahppen inevitably with pretty much every technology)
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @07:54PM (#28367911)

    It's a continuation of the changes that began with the first mechanized warfare, and robotic warfare is indeed worse than what we have now.

    When soldiers fought one-on-one the only way to pacify your enemy was to kill, capture or otherwise eliminate his soldiers. When we started fighting wars with machines, industrial power and the civilians that were responsible for it became more important. You could still win by killing or capturing the other guy's soldiers, but now you could also win by depriving them of the machines they needed to fight effectively. That means taking out factories or convincing the civilians that work in them that they don't want to be at war anymore. When we fight with only machines, no men involved, the only option will be to destroy the civilian's will or ability to fight.

  • by Motard ( 1553251 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:10PM (#28368051)

    Just last weekend I went to the American Modelers Association's Futaba Extreme Flight Championships. It was basically figure skating for R/C aircraft done to music.

    The fixed wing aircraft were impressive for the things they could do that their bigger piloted cousins could never do (such as nose-up hovering). But the real eye openers were the helicopters.

    The small R/C helicopters in those experienced fifteen-year-old hands could pretty much do anything you could think of: Instant transitions between vertical directions like they had vertically opposed rockets, instant recoveries from uncontrolled flight, rolls, twists, hovering while the fuselage was vertical, limited upside-down flight, etc.

    One of my first thoughts was "Wow, you're not going to hit that with an RPG." I'm not sure about the range of their radios, or if such control could be extended beyond line of sight, but the thought of such controlled (and relatively low tech) chaos unleashed on a battlefield could gave me the willies.

  • Yes, but this means dewer men and women getting hurt and killed.

    War has improved dramatically since WWII
    Fewer deaths, more precision, fewer ancillary casualties.

    It's not greate, but is is a lot better.
      Ever notice how it's gotten 'easier' yet there aren't any world wars?

    Not to down play the efforts of the men an women in are armed forces, but it sure take a lot fewer of them to do the job.

  • And he was wrong.
    Sorry, but we use Atomic power fro a lot more peaceful ends then harmful.
    We know how terrible they are, and as such strive for diplomacy.
    Ironic, if countries without nuclear weapons would stop trying to build nuclear weapon, eventually they would go away.

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:41PM (#28368279)

    It's only a matter of time before anybody, anywhere in the world can be picked off by a robot without any warning.

    Correct, and the vile idiots designing and deploying these systems for the United States should be asking themselves, "How will I feel when one of them kills an American president?"

    Because they will. These are assassination machines, and the only thing that has kept assassination at bay as a first-line political tactic is the certainty that the assassin will die or get caught, and therefore be traceable back to their handlers.

    The incredible thing, to me, is that we are still so far from a world of ubiquitous political assassination. The writing has been on the wall since the early '90's. And as is usual with these things, once the cycle of tactical violence has begun, it will be very, very difficult to stop. Even in cases where it is screamingly evident to absolutely anyone with two brain cells to rub together that more violence will never under any circumstances improve the situation, people on both sides keep doing it (I'm thinking of the Palestinian-Israeli situation, ON BOTH SIDES.)

    So after the first presidential candidate dies, say around 2020, the urge to retaliate will be overwhelming. After that, it's tit-for-tat, all the way to hell.

    It won't be the parties doing the killing, either. These things are, or should be, relatively cheap, and the programming is not that difficult. The only reason they are currently expensive is that it is the US government doing it. An "open source" killer robot drone would cost at most a few thousand bucks (use an off-the shelf 1/10th scale RC model as the basic platform).

    How would you like to live in the world when any nutjob with a few thousand bucks to spare can assassinate anyone? Because that's the world you'll be living in, soon enough.

  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:12PM (#28368447)

    The biggest issue of the 21st century is post-scarcity technology wielded by people still preoccupied with fighting over perceived scarcity.

    Some things may not be scarce with the advancement of technology, but I would say it would certainly take a pretty big leap in technology to make the land between Israel and Palistine "non-scarce" (for example).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:51PM (#28368659)

    Less collateral on the other side too. Part of the newer idea with the drones seems to be more precision in the targeting. So instead of having a drone carry one or two missiles with 500lbs of explosive and blow up half the neighborhood, they're going to be loading the things up with what is essentially infantry hand grenades that have been outfitted with tiny miniature versions of laser-based JDAMS fins and guidance. Now the drone has a lot more shots per mission or it can take up more fuel for loitering. Instead of using up a weapon that costs thousands of dollars, you're using one that costs less than $50 to make. Instead of taking out the suspect building, they can just pick off any suspected bad guys that happen to show up on an individual basis.

    If they need to be even more specific, I'm sure an existing 50cal sniper system could be outfitted onto an aircraft or poison darts if the robot has to be compact enough to get in and do the job up close and personal.

    Just imagine if some group tries to hid behind women and children only to be stung to death by robotic bees, while the women and children are left unharmed.

    And for all the complainers: yeah it does suck to be on the wrong end of a weapon, but that's always been the case since someone figured out they could lob a rock at somebody else with some degree of accuracy. The technology involved doesn't matter, but rather whether it's necessary to use the weapon in the first place. I think being more specific in choosing who the targets are instead of wiping out a whole village is still a better option in regards to use of military force.

  • by Ruie ( 30480 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @03:27AM (#28370553) Homepage

    You have many bad examples.

    First of all, there is a difference between a final product and the original discovery. For example, plasma televisions are a product.

    Secondly, during early days of semiconductor industry almost all US output was bought up by the military - to the degree that first consumer transistor radios were made by Japanese who were prohibited from having their own military. CCDs and digital cameras were widely used in satellite imaging - Hubble had at least two military twins that were pointing down to look at Soviet Union. Robots and automation dates centuries back when most consumers could not afford its products (for examples take a look at screw machines or Leonardo's sketches).

    Thirdly, commercial companies did a lot of R&D when there was a military consumer tasked with opposing Soviet Union. After the latter collapsed most companies quickly downsized or got rid of their labs - this includes AT&T, Xerox, GM, GE, HP and others I don't recall. As of now, corporate labs employ a small fraction of scientists they once had.

    The sad fact is that so far the societies as a whole have never pursued the scientific frontier unless threatened by outside force, preferring instead to concentrate on improving quality of life, socialization between themselves and redistribution of wealth. The "good" news is that with the rest of the world coming into the modern age the competition for resources will only increase along with tensions between nations and, if we are lucky, will confine itself to pursuit of science and technology.

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @09:08AM (#28372729) Homepage

    If we use atomic power for more peaceful ends than harmful (like in medicine, or for structural analysis with x-rays), it is precisely because of aspects of the collective human heart that Einstein referred to. A lot of people out there are trying. But it might have been hard to imagine that in the 1940s. Examples are in this book:
    "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement In the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming"
        http://www.blessedunrest.com/ [blessedunrest.com]
    "Paul Hawken has spent over a decade researching organizations dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice.
    From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media. Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people's needs worldwide."

    Slashdot itself is an example of this phenomenon; in the Slashdot case, rather than using computers to target and kill supposed "enemies" using flying robots, post-scarcity computer technology is being used to support dialogue creating a learning community which is empowering people to make life-affirming changes in the world, to make more of the world into friends. The best way to get rid of an "enemy" is to become friends.

  • by Bat Country ( 829565 ) on Thursday June 18, 2009 @11:35AM (#28374729) Homepage

    These are assassination machines, and the only thing that has kept assassination at bay as a first-line political tactic is the certainty that the assassin will die or get caught, and therefore be traceable back to their handlers.

    Nonsense. What stops assassination from being a matter of global policy is a sort of tacit mutual consent to not do it. When you order the assassination of a world leader, you make yourself vulnerable to the same thing. It's the same thing which kept nuclear weapons out of every war since the first one they were used in - the realization that you don't want to live in a world (and probably can't) in which that sort of thing becomes the Right Way To Do Things.

    World Leaders (tm) don't want to be assassinated by Other World Leaders, so they don't order assassinations. It's the same sort of gentleman's agreement that kept people from just ordering the sniping of generals behind enemy lines - at least until guerrilla warfare became fashionable. War is still very much fought like a sport - you have mutually agreed-upon rules which state what you don't do, and people who break the rules get put down very quickly because they lose the protections which keep them safe behind their battle lines. We may be seeing a real break in those "gentlemanly" rules of engagement (of which the Geneva Conventions are just a few) for the first time in 150 or so years (since the Americans pioneered the grand idea of not marching down the center of a field getting shot up.)

    I'd also like to point out that if only 2 or 3 countries in the world have the technology to build these "assassination machines," the funding to mass-produce them, the expertise to employ them, and the vehicles to deliver them, then tracing a robotic assassin will be actually much easier than tracing a normal meatspace assassin who at least has the option of employing a cyanide capsule in order to erase their backtrail.

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.