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US Military Using $600K 'Drone Buggies' To Patrol Camps In Africa (cnbc.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. military is using an unmanned robotic vehicle to patrol around its camps in the Horn of Africa. The remote controlled vehicle is the result of a 30-year plan after military chiefs approved the concept of a robotic security system in 1985. Now the Mobile Detection Assessment and Response System, known as MDARS, are carrying out patrols in the east African country of Djibouti, under the control of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The area is known as home to a number of hostile militant groups including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. An operator sits in a remote location away from the vehicle watching the terrain via a camera link which is fixed to the chassis. U.S. military software engineer Joshua Kordanai said in a video presentation that the vehicle drives itself, freeing the remote operator to monitor video. "The vehicle has an intruder detection payload, consisting of radar, a night vision camera, a PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] camera and two-way audio, so the system will be able to detect motion," he added. One report prices the cost of an earlier version of the military 'drone buggy' at $600,000 each.
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US Military Using $600K 'Drone Buggies' To Patrol Camps In Africa

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Instead of lame camera-toting trucks, I thought we'd get cool laser-armed chrome titans striding across the battlefield.

    I'm beginning to think I won't get a flying car either.

  • by npslider ( 4555045 ) on Friday July 29, 2016 @04:34PM (#52608995)

    It took 30 years to come up with a Roomba with night vision?

  • Cheap (Score:4, Interesting)

    by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Friday July 29, 2016 @04:42PM (#52609035) Homepage

    Considering the cost of useless toys like the F-35, this is a steal in both utility and price.

  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Friday July 29, 2016 @04:46PM (#52609065) Homepage Journal

    Apropos of nothing...

    Just how hard is it to disable one of these $600,000 mobile golf carts?

    For example, can a high powered rifle pierce any of the antennas, control electronics, or motive hardware? Would an IED be sufficient?

    And having done so, what dangers might the recovery team face?

    • The recovery team would likely be safer going in knowing a threat is in the vicinity. A bunch of people on regular patrols would be more susceptible to attacks, the drones reduce the amount of human exposure to attack.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      are you serious ?
      its a golf cart. literally. it has no armor. you can kick it over with your foot.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Apropos of nothing... Just how hard is it to disable one of these $600,000 mobile golf carts? For example, can a high powered rifle pierce any of the antennas, control electronics, or motive hardware? Would an IED be sufficient? And having done so, what dangers might the recovery team face?

      The US got massively superior firepower if they can just locate the enemy. And they won't be medics in a hurry because he's bleeding out. Taking out one of these would be announcing to the world here I am, come kill me. And you got them to reveal themselves without putting any soldiers at risk. And if they're plagued with hit and run attacks they can set an ambush of their own like a hidden sniper covering the patrol area or a squad that'll cut them off from behind. And you could probably make dumb decoys f

    • Just how hard is it to disable one of these $600,000 mobile golf carts?

      The best way to disable a military vehicle is to shoot the driver. Since this vehicle doesn't have a driver, it will be less vulnerable.

    • They're not $600k, that is obvious just from the idiotic summary. An "earlier version" (prototype) cost $600k, the production version is likely much cheaper. The actual cost is negative, because manned security uses the same sensors and simply costs more because of the desire to protect humans.

      In October 2010 the first MDARS vehicle went online at Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)...

      The MDARS will save NNSS an estimated $1 million in annual force protection labor and equipment maintenance costs. Addition

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 29, 2016 @05:17PM (#52609255) Journal
    What could be more suitable to guard your drone aircraft's landing field and associated infrastructure than drone vehicles?
    • by TimSSG ( 1068536 )

      What could be more suitable to guard your drone aircraft's landing field and associated infrastructure than drone vehicles?

      Sounds good; but, it might be funny to suggest American Bees as a defense measure.
      For years, I have been told the USA is being invaded by African Bees; I think maybe American Bees might want some payback.

      Tim S.

  • $600,000 for one of these?

    Hell, I could build a functionally similar unit for less than $100K, and it would be better than this glorified golf-cart.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      Well, get going and do it already. If it can perform the same functions and reliably survive under battlefield conditions, you can probably mark it up by $400K and make a bundle on every unit you sell.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        Your profits will be eaten up by bribing politicians to buy your drone and dump the primary contractor (who has already bribed the politicians).
        The military-industrial-political complex is very tightly knit. It's hard to break into and requires years of "groundwork". But once you have all the politicians in place, it's gravy.

      • Well, get going and do it already. If it can perform the same functions and reliably survive under battlefield conditions, you can probably mark it up by $400K and make a bundle on every unit you sell.

        Making a sale to the DOD from an outsider like me is next to impossible. If you're not part of the established military contractor network then you don't stand a chance. I could build a better, stronger, more capable replacement for less and they'd just sneer at me.

        Look at it- is there anything on that jumped-up golf cart that couldn't be replicated at 1/3rd the cost? Nope, I could build 90% of it from COTS gear and get the rest from specialty suppliers. This thing uses no high-tech cutting-edge technology,

      • If it can perform the same functions and reliably survive under battlefield conditions, you can probably mark it up by $400K and make a bundle on every unit you sell.

        Until he finds out what the article actually said... $600k was reported for an early prototype. It is a bit late to hit that price point; he'd have to compete at production prices, and eat the cost of his own prototypes.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Just the accounting you'd need to sell the thing to the government would cost you $100K. Oh, and you'd have to pay yourself or someone else to take part in the bidding process or apply for the granted, and that has to be recouped as part of the sale cost. Er... you were planning on paying yourself for your time, weren't you?

      Also, there's a big difference between building a prototype from junk you scrounged and building a reproducible product. When you build a product the second copy should be exactly the

  • This sentry combines the grace and agility of a robot with the reflexes and continuous attention of a human! Something like this could never be tricked into carrying a bomb back to base.

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