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Ask Slashdot: Can You Identify This UAV? 232

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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  • 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.

  • Re:FMC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:11PM (#37281130)

    Grease pencil on weapons placards was common (the Navy may still use it).

    When we deployed to Al Dhafra, grease pencils were even used for nose art: []

    Note the old-school white placard on this O-2: []

    Tape is available and produces the required contrast. There is no functional reason not to use tape and marker.

  • Bird UAV (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EEPROMS ( 889169 ) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @07:30PM (#37281234)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 01, 2011 @09:13PM (#37281856)

    This website:

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

  • Re:FMC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @09:44PM (#37282008)

    "Claymores have "Face Toward Enemy" written on them. Nothing would surprise me."

    OK. Picture a PLAIN Claymore. Not particularly intuitive.

  • 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?

  • Homemade Job? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Taty'sEyes ( 2373326 ) <> 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?

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain