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The Military Hardware

DARPA's ICARUS Program To Develop Self-Destructing Air Delivery Vehicles (darpa.mil) 70

Zothecula contributes this excerpt from Gizmag that illustrates the latest chapter in the long history of denying equipment of military technology to the makers' adversaries: Two years ago, DARPA started developing self-destructing electronics as a way to prevent advanced military gear falling into the wrong hands. Now the agency is expanding on the idea with its Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems (ICARUS) program, which is tasked with developing small, unmanned, single-use, unpowered air vehicles that can can be dropped from an aircraft to deliver supplies to isolated locations in the event of disasters, then evaporate into thin air once their job is done.
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DARPA's ICARUS Program To Develop Self-Destructing Air Delivery Vehicles

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  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @10:18AM (#50717339)

    Always amused by the military's use of the world "delivery" though.

    • As amusing as nitehawk214's use of the word "world".
    • by Shoten ( 260439 )

      Here's what this name reminds me of:

      Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for Agent Ward?
      Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
      Hill: And what does that mean to you?
      Ward: That someone really wanted our initials to spell SHIELD.

    • Just delete the "o":

      The program evolved from the success of DARPA's VAnishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, which is developing a new class of self-destructing electronics designed to destroy themselves on command to prevent them from being captured by enemy forces.

    • Somehow, I cannot get Inspector Gadget [wikipedia.org] from my mind. In a first test run, don't forget to send the project leader a note reading "this message will self-destruct".
    • Are you kidding? That is super cool. Make a phone call, "Hey, can I get a bottle of Pepsi in the middle of the Sahara?" 5 minutes later it's delivered and the messenger goes up in smoke like a genie. I mean next best thing would be teleportation but yea, or a catapult and your Pepsi parachutes down.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        More accurately they can drop other manufacturing countries small arms and munitions to regime change countries, so that the claim the manufacturing country was interfering in the regime change country, so that the country actually supplying can 'er' help to secure the recipient country from the source of manufacture country but not the actual supply country with a military base or two. So why is the US already supply confiscated Russian manufactured and munitions arms to countries instead of properly dest

        • Because that wouldn't be economically feasable? Somebody's got to be the big guy, it's an ugly position, but it's a necessary evil nonetheless. Not to mention inevitable. Pretty sad, but such is the human condition. You can't make the world better today unfortunately, only different. Replicators, space travel, and teleportation should keep us busy until the next millenium.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That the guy who came up with that acronym was fist-bumping and high-fiving his way around the office after he came up with that little gem.

  • I think you meant "explodes into tiny fragments and toxic compounds dust".
  • ... then evaporate into thin air once their job is done.

    Just have the "delivery vehicle" fly really close to the Sun. [wikipedia.org]

    • Congrats on repeating the reference from the second word in the damn title. Or do you think the name is a coincidence?

      • Congrats on repeating the reference from the second word in the damn title. Or do you think the name is a coincidence?

        It's possible that not everyone will recognize the DARPA usage as a tortured/forced acronym (Inbound, Controlled, Air-Releasable, Unrecoverable Systems) for the person of Greek mythology. Which is stupid anyway as the DARPA version won't actually fly anywhere near the Sun. [ Stupid government/military and their stupid desire for stupid acronyms. How much time/money is wasted coming up with these things? ]

        • Given it gets colder as you go higher and wings don't work so well as the atmosphere thins I don't think it's the DARPA version with the most stupid :)

          And those acronyms are important, it's harder to win popular support when things are called "We want to drop thousands of small bombs over populated areas with guidance mechanisms so they hit the targets we want, but since with that many it's certain some of them won't explode we also want the guidance system to self destruct so our enemies can't reverse engi

  • Just have a look at my sweet prototypes [funpaperairplanes.com] for an unmanned unpowered air vehicle that will disintegrate after use.

    It can even carry secret messages with addition of my optional $500 secure message encoding substrate [nfbkids.ca].

  • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @10:38AM (#50717523)

    Let's call the powered one "missiles" and the unpowered ones "bombs".

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      They talk about using them for delivery of harmless supplies, but I agree, as weapons delivery systems they seem to make more sense. They describe a balloon carrying up large numbers of small, largely transparent aerial vehicles that then drift to target locations up to 150km away automatically with a 1,4kg payload, then vaporize via sublimation and/or fracturing electronics to tiny bits from internal stresses. Why exactly couldn't these be carrying small shaped charges? And if they have a processor contr

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )
        The Japanese tried balloon bombs in WWII targeted at the US mainland. Didn't work too well. And isn't the US a signatory on the treaty banning cluster munitions? Cluster munitions have a bad habit of deciding not to explode until years later when some kid is playing soccer next to them or some farmer plows one up.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          These aren't "balloon bombs", in that you're launching a balloon and hoping it goes over the right location. They talk about using a balloon to give them altitude so that they can then self-glide down to precise locations without needing an engine.

          The US actively uses cluster munitions and has no plans to phase them out, and is not a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (nor are any states that could be considered its enemies or rivals, such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc). And when yo

          • Note the balloon is to simplify the challenge. The proposal needs to include discussion on deployment from other air platforms, especially high speed, high altitude aircraft. It also needs to include calculations of the anticipated maximum drop airspeed, and any anticipated modifications which might be required to drop the vehicle at airspeeds exceeding the anticipated maximum drop airspeed.

  • This is a whitewash (Score:3, Interesting)

    by klingens ( 147173 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @10:55AM (#50717615)

    Why would anyone with even an ounce of self-estime parrot bullshit like "that can can be dropped from an aircraft to deliver supplies to isolated locations in the event of disasters, then evaporate into thin air once their job is done."

    This is not for disasters. When there is a disaster, and you deliver stuff via one-time use means, you want to keep these aur vehicles cause they are valuable and incredibly useful. For example some parachute can be easily repurposed as a tent, to keep out rain or simply people from freezing. These are valuable materials. Metals are equally useful, etc. There simply is no trash at a disaster site, only ressources

    The only, really ONLY reason for self destructing air vehicles are to infilttrate spies and spec ops into foreign countries to cause violence.

    • The only reason for this is in war zones, but they can be used for aerial reconnaissance, and for resupplying the front lines.

      I think maybe mischief may be more effective than violence to slow the other side down, because they are less likely to devote resources to it which sounds like a boon in itself, but it increases the chances of getting caught and used to embarrass the first side.
    • you want to keep these aur vehicles cause they are valuable and incredibly useful.

      That is not a valid business plan the vehicle must be unrecoverable so that more will be purchased.

  • by sunderland56 ( 621843 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2015 @11:00AM (#50717643)
    They've had this idea for years; the old code name used to be "parachute". These new ones sure are fancy, but does the taxpayer really need to spend that much when a simple parachute would work equally well?
    • by rHBa ( 976986 )
      From TFA:

      The air delivery vehicles to be developed by the program need to meet certain criteria. These include the ability to drop payloads of up to 3 lb (1.4 kg) within 10 m (33 ft) of a target landing spot and cover a lateral distance of over 150 km (93 mi) when released from a stationary balloon at 10,670 m (35,000 ft).

      That would require a glide ratio of nearly 15:1 so a parachute (or even a paraglider) wouldn't quite do the job. I'm imagining it'll be something like a self steering mini hangglider or sailplain.

      Of course being unpowered the aircraft's range will depend on wind direction (it won't get as far flying into a head-wind). The one thing I am curious about is how they are going to control the direction of the craft once launched if it truly is unpowered.

      • Same way they control gliders. It may have no driving engine, but it can still have flaps, or flexing wings. Just needs a compass and GPS unit.

        • by rHBa ( 976986 )
          It still needs power for the GPS and to control the flaps, I guess a small, disposable battery would do for the expected life of the unit but getting a battery and servos to 'disappear'...? ...It'll be a bit trickier than VAPRising some micro electronics and a lot more hazardous too...
          • Those types of components are commodity parts anyway. The magic is in the software, and making that disappear is very easy indeed.

    • In the actual request for proposals they mention parachutes (it sounds like this is what's currently used). Apparently in many situations of interest the parachute would need to be packed out by the sniper or Special Forces teams being resupplied. The goal is to create a system which doesn't need to be packed out, doesn't give away the position of the people receiving the supplies.

      • in many situations of interest the parachute would need to be packed out

        Yeah, right. Give a grunt the task of hauling out a large bulky parachute over many miles of enemy terrain, and he'll quickly discover the book of matches in his pocket.

        • I'm just relaying what the DARPA doc says: the reason for the disappearing requirement is for operational security. Apparently something which "disappears" by burning into a fine ash is also out for similar reasons.

  • ... off the shelf drone technology? So even if one of these falls into the hands of an enemy, it isn't anything they couldn't have bought at Best Buy anyway.

  • I instantly thought of this Icarus [wikia.com].

    Every day Deus Ex seems less sci-fi and more non-fiction.

  • about these evaporating electronics...

    They already manage to make things that fail the day after the warranty, I really don't want my coffee machine evaporating as soon as the new model is released...

    • That was probably the original plan... how can we make these fail the day after the warranty expires? The marketing department can claim a lifetime warranty if they only return the broken hardware we'll replace it. Then make it evaporate after a few months... nothing to return no warranty.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Years and years ago there was a company, in Maine actually - kind of neat I guess, that designed and created optical disks that were based on organics and would stop working after a set time once exposed to air. The thinking was DVD rental kiosks and things like Netflix. It didn't catch on and, I think, they've since stopped trying to market them and may have gone out of business.

      I sit on the board at my local credit union and we were approached for funding. We declined. They were in the media for a while b

      • Flexplay did that though they're from Atlanta I think.

        DVD-D was similar - rather than being a reaction with oxygen it used the spinning of the disc to initiate the reaction so the first play of the day set the timer running on it stopping to work rather than it being exposed to air.

        From a rental point of view the no need to return bit makes sense, but people always hate the idea. DIVX doing it via phoning home also didn't work out well. Now of course streaming has pretty much replaced the need.

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Same company - I think we may have now both learned a little something new.

          http://archive.bangordailynews... [bangordailynews.com]

          I like learning new things and I'd thought it was organics that they'd used and not spinning. I didn't read the article completely except to scan for the name for I am a lazy git. So I'll just operate under the assumption that you're correct. Although when it was on NPR I seem to recall they'd mentioned it was organics and based on the packaging and air but I could be mistaken. I didn't live in Maine

  • ..."small, unmanned, single-use, unpowered air vehicles that can can be dropped from an aircraft to deliver supplies to isolated locations in the event of disasters..."

    What's wrong with putting supplies on a wooden pallet and using a parachute to drop them out of a plane?

  • Am confused?

    Self-destructive air delivery vehicles. Sure sounds like a Cruise Missile to me...

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