back to article Terrorist robots dissected - anatomy of a scare

There's a fresh flurry of robot-terrorist headlines on the wires, following an autonomous-weapons conference held on Wednesday at a military thinktank in London. The assembled military and academic bigwigs gathered in Whitehall were mainly thinking about the ethics of killer robot use by Western forces, but there was only one …

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What we have to fear

"Once again, it seems that the main thing we have to fear is fear itself."

I respectfully disagree. The *MAIN* things we have to fear, in my opinion, are our governments (US for me, UK for you). Our governments use the "Think of the terrorists, they're coming for you!" line to strip away our freedoms quicker than you can say "what terrorists?". Pesonally, I find it sadly humorous that the US government is taking away freedoms under the illusion of "protection", while claiming they are actively stopping terrorists threats, yet say they are unable to describe said threats. It's the old "you'll have to trust us" line. This from a government with a proven track record of lies, deception, corruption, and cover-ups (not to mention the willingness to rig elections and then cover it up, making meaningless what is possibly the most basic freedom in a supposed democracy).

No. I don't fear fear. I don't (much) fear the terrorists. I do, however, fear our governments. And, given the current path we're on, I fear our 1984-style future.

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Anonymous Coward

Already out htere

They're already available - but currently to the military; see this

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/4249209.html?page=5

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Target?

You're assuming the target would be, say, the PM. Of course it'd be difficult.

Why not something guaranteed to offer headlines possibly as big if not bigger: Say the main stand during a major footie match?

Even a pound or so of bang would make enough of a mess there to guarantee at least a small mention in the papers.

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Bronze badge

Strange

Seems a bit odd to set the story in the UK and then go on about prices in dollars. Or are you saying that all terrorists originate in the US? Hmm, while I have sympathy for that point of view (they're the only ones to have dropped nuclear weapons in anger and once accidentally on Spain in 1966) I suspect there may be some from other areas too.

Otherwise great article.

One more thing, when is it people are going to realise that the PM isn't that important? He's only an elected bod, the country can and does run without him. As soon as we start treating him and MPs as ordinary people the sooner they'll be less of a target for terrorists.

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Black Helicopters

60 grand

You don't need a 6 grand guidance system or a 60 grand rc helicopter and you don't need to pinpoint the PM in order to make a terrorist impact.

The reason you don't need the expensive chopper and guidance is because you don't need to be flying a certified, safety-approved UAV - you only need to fly the "probably works" No.8 wire version and send more of them. Why go to the expense and complexity of a spinny-wing system when normal non-hovering fixed-wing airframes are so much more efficient and reliable ?

Picking off the PM is hardly a realistic target based either on earlier experience or rational choice. If you were trying to win popularity for your cause then popping the PM would be laudable. But most people are worried about terrorists who are using violence to intimidate and disrupt not score some sort of PR coup.

Set off a dozen low-cost 50lb delivery airframes and aim them at ... every tall building in canary wharf ... every rail interchange at rush hour ... invent your own sensible target that isn't under high security protection.

I do normally like these articles but you've missed the point badly here - now I'm wondering how reliable your earlier articles were since this is an area (toy planes, helicopters) I do have a minute bit of understanding in compared to, say, binary liquid explosives.

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Thumb Up

More nonsense carefully skewered

Thanks Lewis for another careful insight to puncture the scare/fear bubble that government seeks to promote at every opportunity.

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Flame

"Fly a Cessna into a building"

That was done already by a stupid kid in Tampa, Florida in 2002.

The result? One dead kid, a smashed glass wall and a ruined Cessna 172 sticking out of the side of a building with only its engine on the inside. No fire, just a glass covered office to clean up and a wall to repair.

Its quite possible to rent or steal a light plane and fly it into a building, but the Florida episode shows that a GA aircraft hasn't got the energy or mass to penetrate a building far enough to deliver a bomb to the inside where it might do some damage. If the explosion is outside it may break some glass, but is unlikely to do much more than superficial damage.

Bigger planes don't do much more damage either. When a twin engine B-25 hit the Empire State building at 225 mph in 1945 during office hours it made an 18 x 20 foot hole, killed 14 including the crew and injured 25, mainly due to the resulting petrol fire.

The bottom line is that the good general was talking through his arse. In future he should engage his brain before opening his mouth.

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I agree...

...that autonomous carriers of the sort you describe would be very ineffective as an assassination tool, but what I think the think-tank is more concerned about is the terrorist tactics of the type seen on 9/11 or 7th July, or Omagh. Terrorists, in order to spread terror among the general population, will not target government figures but any large crowd of joe public. This is where said UAV might be more useful. You 60K chopper with a 50lb 'dirty' bomb could certainly do a lot of damage detonating on Oxford Street at 1pm on a Saturday morning. This is the concern of the thinktank, and I think, to be fair, justified in this respect.

I remember an episode of Scrapheap Challenge where the teams had to build remote controlled cars from scrap in 10 hours. Is it so much different to think a well funded and well educated terrorist organisation could do the same thing to a Cessna? (Obviously, a Cessna is easier to spot and shoot down, but still concerning) I'm not trying to scaremonger, but I do not think we should be so dismissive of the idea and I for one do not mind my tax money being spent on addressing the problem.

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Thumb Down

Poor, very poor.

Don't give up the day job Lewis. You setup a ludicrous strawman, ignore 99% of the targets, technologies, methodologies - then claim there's no threat. Either you really haven't thought it through, or you started out with an objective of rubbishing something.

There are 101 ways to using cheap technology for effect, the threat is a real one and the only thing that helps us is that most terrorists are too dumb to deviate from the script.

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jim

Missed the obvious

The old farts at this meeting missed the obvious easy option.

A model speedboat capable of carrying 250LB of explosive with GPS on board.

This boat could be released on its merry way from ANYWHERE along the UK coast, without fear of being seen, right next to the wall next to the House of Commons.

BOOOOMMMMMM

Easy peasy. No flying. No payload weight problems etc...

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Thumb Down

and a rifle is useless because it can't hit the moon, right?

Lewis, while I appreciate your military background and all, methinks you grasp at straws sometimes in your crusade. If you need to invent an arbitrarily impossible target, like absolutely needing to hit the prime minister or it's a failure, it's a bogus analysis. I hope you realize that by using similarly bogus, arbitrarily chosen targets, you can claim that any weapon ever invented is bogus.

- artillery? Useless stuff. It could probably fire for half an hour and still not hit the prime minister. And by then the counter-battery fire will have nailed them.

- military cruise missiles? Useless crap. They hit within 3 metres too, at best. That is, when they don't hit the wrong building entirely, like some did in Iraq.

- aircraft? Now that's such useless crap that it shouldn't have even been invented. I mean, you bombed Germany for how many years, and not a single bomb hit Hitler? And the Luftwaffe utterly failed to nail Churchill too, for that matter.

Heck, we can ditch explosives entirely, because the aforementioned short-moustache guy survived a blast right in the room he was in, in one of the coup attempts. I figure your PM could too, then.

So let's ditch all those, and go back to good ol' black-powder front-loader muskets. Oops, those suck too. They were such a formation-only weapon that you Brits didn't bother putting iron sights on yours during, say, the americans' rebellion. You just couldn't aim with one at 100m. Chance of hitting the prime minister with one? Pretty much nil.

Ok, let's go back to longbows then. Nah, those are crap too. While they could have accuracy _or_ range, they didn't have both. You're not gonna accurately nail the prime minister with one unless you're so close that his bodyguards can rush you.

Stone-tipped spears? Nah, those won't put a hole in the limo.

Well, I guess that settles it. We can forget warfare, there are no weapons that fit Lewis Page's standards.

To get back to the topic at hand, you don't need to nail the PM to cause a stampede and a media hysteria. If that contraption can guide itself to a crowded place (e.g., to a demonstration or political rally) and explode, you have all the terror you need and then some. Even with a grenade sized warhead.

Will it be the end of the UK as we know it? Well, no. Obviously not. But that doesn't mean that it can't cause a bit of panic, same as any other terror attack.

Basically, to put it a lot less nicely, I know you're only trolling for ad views, but you can do a better job. You're a big boy, plus you know stuff about explosives and stuff. You can do better sophistry, and less blatant fallacies, than "but it couldn't hit the prime minister!"

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Dead Vulture

What about poison?

A machine capable of carrying a toxin to a pre-determined target via GPS could be a winner. Depending on the target the toxin could be a gas, liquid or powder. A free dispersal mechanism (the downdraft from the rotor blades on a chopper) is a handy benefit.

I guess you'd have to pick your toxin pretty carefully though to ensure adequate effectiveness.

I would have to suggest though that if mass deaths rather than targeted assassination was the aim then disrupting a rail network and releasing gas onto crowded stations or in carriages would be far more effective - eg. the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo which used Sarin gas in just such attacks.

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Black Helicopters

Toy threats from toy weapons

The IRA were quite successful with roadside bombs. They are cheap, easy to make and simple to deploy. Why go to all the cost and difficulty of weaponizing some toy helicopter?

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Anonymous Coward

Rotormotion Kit

To be honest the idea of someone knocking up the equivalent of the Rotormotion aircraft on the quiet is gonna be tricky. The clever box of tricks on board is rather bodged together in places, but it's still gonna require a level of control and engineering knowledge to replicate it, which could be put to better use on more dangerous attacks.

If they bought one from Rotormotion I suspect they may stand out somewhat on the training course...

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If TERROR! is the objective

Simple grenade/flare carried by radio controlled model

A couple of controllers for the 'terrorist cell' to take relay control from launch site to target. For the final leg you might want to modify the aerial for a directional signal on the controller and boost the power.

Crash plane and ignite grenade/flare in the middle of Trooping the Colour or the start of the London Marathon. If the final controller has a good enough view they might do a nice low pass trailing smoke to get better TV coverage and start a good chemical WMD panic.

That gets you all the headlines you could dream of for a couple of hundred pound.

Everything except the modified final controller and the flare/grenade could be bought easily at your local Maplins. I'm sure even the incompetents in Al-Quada UK could manage to make a flare or a firework explosion to scatter some highly visible powder around the target.

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correction

"it seems that the main thing we have to fear is fear itself"

should read

"it seems that the main thing we have to fear is the fearspreaders themselfs"

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JK
Thumb Up

Thank you.

Maybe now all those headlines about skynet wielding terrorist armies will simply STFU/GTFO.

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Black Helicopters

NZ DIY cruise

an NZ enthusiast legally built a guided cruise missile from bits ordered from ebay, and published the details on the interweb , followed by a rapid rendition and incarceration and co-incidentally all his business accounts were frozen and he had underpaid his tax for the previous decades and he probably hadn't got a dog license. It seems unwise to build your own cruise missile or do any pterrrorrizmmm.

RF controlled toy helicopters *were* down to about $30 last xmas, so there *could be* a threat from a swarm of these nano-bots. I'd be scared if I were a top bod! There are also rumors about cell phone controlled devices that go 'pop' about 30 seconds after all the RF in the area is green/blue/red warlocked (jammed). ccm.

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Anonymous Coward

dear god

Could this rebellion hurry up and happen already - I'm tired of these utter retards that seem to inhabit the upper echelons of our power structures.

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Alert

Another good article.

Lewis, sometimes it seems you are the lone voice of reason in a world gone mad.

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Flame

It doesn't have to be that big to make a big bang

We always consider targets like 10 Downing Street or The White House. In reality, there are plenty of "soft" targets that have greater impact to more people.

A couple of US$500 "autonomous" RC aircraft hitting several electrical power towers or sub-stations at the same time could cause a major electrical crisis, as the sub-station failure in Florida state last week demonstrated. The same effect could be achieved by hitting a couple of refineries on the Houston, Texas ship channel; again, the historical precedent of the Texas City disaster shows how bad this could be.

These attacks would not be devastating the way the World Trade Center or London Underground attacks were, but hit several targets one after another could, with the press "fearleading", become true "terror" events.

We have to keep focused on the fact that terrorists don't need to kill masses of people to get a good panic. That's why it's called TERRORISM - it's all about the scare.

What we really need is for people of the Western world to take a page from the Israelis: no matter what "terror" occurs, realize that it's localized and the equivalent of a teen temper tantrum. Put it into the perspective of how many people get killed in a bus crash or a bad fire or in random murders DAILY: wrecks, fires and wanton murder are the price we pay for living in the "modern" world. Ignoring terrorists is the price we have to pay for freedom: carry on with our lives in the face of random adversity.

You folks across the Pond in England should listen to your grandparents about their lives during the Blitz. There you had REAL terror - bombs falling from the sky - and yet they carried on.

As a parting shot: back during Persian Gulf 1 I had to do extensive business travel through the US. There were several times that I was the only passenger on an airliner, and nearly the only person in the airport (LAX, PHX, CGV) because of the fear terrorists instilled by threatening to blow up US aircraft. Many co-workers would not travel at the time: I chastised them for their failure to do their job to uphold our freedom.

It's our job, nay, our DUTY to ignore these gnats of terror and get on with our lives.

The day we marginalize the terrorists is the day they fail - forever.

(I never flame, but this topic really pisses me off. Sorry about that.)

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Anonymous Coward

TERRORIST ROBOT COUNTRTMEASURES

First: The helicopters mentioned are at best difficult to fly and take many hours of practice to become a proficient pilot. I am sure someone would notice a pilot practising manoeuvres consistent with some type of attack.

Second: I am sure dozens of volunteers would be available to take positions around sensitive areas with nothing more than a shotgun using a heavy bird shot. These Helicopters are extremely sensitive to the slightest damage and could be easily disabled.

I do not believe UAV's would be a threat in the near future. There are other ways that are much less technical and more effective.

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Bronze badge
Dead Vulture

small-scale cruise missiles

Many years ago I saw on a different forum (talk.origins, if you must know; if you hang around t.o long enough, someone will mention something about any subject you can think of, and several you can't) several posts on this subject. They went into great detail just how to create a privately-owned cruise missile, starting with a general aviation aeroplane such as a single- or twin-engined Cessna. (I think that specific models were identified as being ideal for the purpose, but it's been several years so I don't recall which ones) One requirement was the ability to lift at least 500 pounds, whether it was fuel or explosives, 500 pounds of aviation petrol would do quite nicely for most cruise-missile-worthy targets. Several concepts, including the classic manned model (it was pointed out that a certain Japanese [of course!] gentleman had flown a Cessna into some Japanese government building in some sort of protest in the 1970s...) and the guided all the way by radio command model and the GPS model, were argued about. (Those who have been on t.o know that the one constant of t.o is argument. Those who have not, have no idea. Really.) (Well, argument and puns. Bad ones. Australians are allowed to roam free. The horror. The horror...) Ways of stopping the various models were also argued about. The manned model seems to be the most reliable and the most difficult to stop.

Banzai tenno and all that.

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Stop

GPS kill switch

From what I remember, the USA has the ability to throw the GPS kill switch, so that would do trick too.

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Anonymous Coward

Who need remote control?

Who need remote control when there are so many folks willing to die doing the job?

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Jef Raskin

Jef Raskin, co-creator of the Macintosh interface, was speculating about using model aircraft for terrorist uses after 9/11 attacks.

http://jef.raskincenter.org/unpublished/next_time_can_be_worse.html

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Silver badge
Stop

Right line, wrong targets.

Why is it that pompous politicos and military bigwigs always assume they are the targets for the assembled nutjobs of the world? Al-Quaeda doesn't need cruise missiles because the targets they specialise in (just like the PIRA) are public and civilian, and in AQ's case the object is to promote terror. It's hardly terrifying to the general public if the nutjobs stated aim is only to kill the top strata of society, much more effective to simply say that anyone anywhere in the West is a target. AQ has shown this with their bombings of public transport in London and Madrid. If the local AQ had sixty pounds of explosive they are much more likely to pack it into rucksacks and go for another public target with easy access, not a high-risk military or political target likely to be crawling with very alert and trigger-happy guards.

The PIRA also took this view. When they attacked Number 10 they used mortars as this allowed them to stay outside the immediate highly guarded zone and attack without personal risk. AQ, rather than building cruise missiles, are much more likely to try mortars or even copy the home-made Qassam rockets of Hamas, and fire at large area targets. Now imagine the headlines if AQ fired a barrage of Qassams at the City, it fits their stated aim of a war on global capitalism, it hits at ordinary people and thus spreads terror, and the fact that Qassams can be remotely launched by timer allows little chance of being caught. Who needs cruise?

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Happy

ho ho ho

I like the comment about dispatching the aircraft with a shot gun. Saw a fire power demonstration at Warcop in 1985. Two platoon of squaddies with rifles and 2 GPMG's tried to shoot down a radio controlled aircraft flying backwards and forwards along their trench, they never hit it once! The aircraft operator even did a victory roll to rub their faces in it!

There is a much easier method to bring chaos to this nation, which for some reason the IRA never tried? Target the infra structure, electricity generation and distribution, lots of lonely pylons out there, poison the water supply, interfere with supermarket food, so many ways to bring panic, or just vote for Gordon again....LOL

I guess they are going to ban radio controlled models next? there goes my sub.

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Thumb Up

Great shooting down of another scare tactic

Why do people keep dreaming up these theories? This only makes sense if it's more effective than simply strapping on an explosive vest and walking into a crowd. It's just like that liquid explosive theory. Why worry about that when odds are you can smuggle regular explosives onto a plane now (as US gov testers have repeatedly proven).

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JK
Flame

@"60 Grand" and @"Poor, very poor"

1) A pistol, shotgun, or -- even better -- a SMG can dispatch any of these blatantly-obvious robotic hellspawns easily.

2) As previously stated, live usage of any of these robotic terror minions will result in a speedy, escorted, visit to Allah courtesy of the SAS.

3) Perhaps more importantly than any of the points ever made: Arming either:

a) A suicide bomber with grenades

b) Just a regular bomber who isn't going to blow themselves up

-- is far cheaper and more likely to work.

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Happy

What we need to learn from James Bond movie scripts ...

Haven't we all learned from James Bond movies that the bad guy always insists on using some fantastically complicated high tech gadgetry to perform his evil deeds? It should be obvious that he needs to show off his superior technology and that he fears nothing more than suffering the indignity of merely being a successful ordinary criminal. The only reason there haven't been more attacks is the delays affecting the delivery of flux capacitors needed for their time machines.

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Black Helicopters

Kiwi nutter build cruse missile, attracts black helicopters.

<jedi-handwave>This is not the cruse missile you were looking for.. </jedi-handwave>

http://www.interestingprojects.com/cruisemissile/

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Silver badge

All you need is a telephone

Sod all the different ideas for dropping bombs and grenades etc on the PM or anybody else. All you need to disrupt things is a telephone, just ring up the local fuzz and inform them that you have put almost anything unpleasant into the local waterworks,make the amount you have allegedly inserted into the water large enough to be interesting and then sit back and watch the pandemonium.

A question to those who know, how do you hook up a Maplins GPS to a model aeroplane so that it does the cruise missile bit? I think that it is probably a bit beyond the average terrorist. How would the interface work?

Lastly, as others here have said, why bother with high tech when there are so many wating in line to meet Allah and claim their seven virgins.

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Paris Hilton

Oh well

Oh well for a dose of reality back to reading the annual worldwide preventable death statistics , those murdered by quacks pretending to play doctors in hospital (averages about three to four times higher then the average car road toll , now who would have thought that !) and so forth and then listen to that insurance add about prepaid funeral plans that use the words "Death happens suddenly and often and eventually comes to all of us "

But then again any man , woman or child educated in the system they currently use in Amerika would come out with self centred delusional beliefs centred around the word "Denial" as it is full of it from a through z !

But this is coming from a military force which during the cold continued to deny the fact that even to this day and even after the Gary Powers show trial they illegally flew aircraft over Russia and the Russians loved to shoot them down with equal aplomb with their so called lesser inferior equipment , funny that !

One could say the man is a classic case of some one living in denial but we were warned back in the late sixties by a well known educator in his popular book that it would come to pass eventually such clueless wankers would be ultimately be promoted into positions of authority and just as quickly lose the plot even on quiet days !

Benjamin Franklin summed it up neatly " They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Oh no move along nothing to see really, just another headless self wanking chicken little running around yelling "the sky is falling" and setting us all up for the wolf to eat us all whilst creating the illusion of safety which does not exist in the real world outside his delusions of denial !

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Black Helicopters

If it was about terrorism

The UAV wouldn't have to actually carry any payload more dangerous than perfume. Fly a robotic aircraft through a crowded downtown during lunchtime, spraying perfume on the populace.

What laws would you break? What effect would you have on the people? The return on investment would be worth the effort, if instilling fear was the aim of the game.

The message, "you are not safe anywhere." Just get the people wondering... "this time is was just perfume, what could it be next time?"

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Bronze badge

Why GPS? Why a point target?

It's a good point about the PIRA. They were, eventually, smart enough to quit.

There are toys out there with the basic components of an INS system--accelerometers and direction sensors.

I'm sure that Lewis, in his previous employment, was quite aware of the possibility that the EOD Land Rover would end up parked next to another bomb. I strongly suspect that he can think of half a dozen schemes which would be hard to stop, safe for the terrorist, and not glittery high-tech. And not relying on obscure knowledge.

Anyway, miniature helicopters with bombs, chasing a target car: that's straight out of The Avengers.

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Anonymous Coward

Is any of this whizzbang stuff

any more effective for terror purposes than a naked man taped all over with unlit road flares that seems to be about the level of threat they are looking for. They would shoot him blame him for it and preach as to how they are ever vigilant blah blah blah and sheeple would feel safer. Anybody who is actually dangerous has to just watch them do the job no need to do anything.

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What the scaremongers fail to realise...

Sure, forget the difficulty of hitting the PM or the Prez or any other easily-replaced waste of oxygen. Politicians are like hydra - cut off a head and another 2 will fill the gap.

Terrorists - especially Middle Eastern ones, anyway - tend to favour easy civilian targets that will get the population scared, such as buses, theatres, footy matches etc (we all sleep easy in our beds when it's only scum^H^H^H^H politicians likely to get killed but if there's a chance we'll get blown up taking the bus to work or enjoying the match it becomes a threat) .

However: As has been stated over and over: why spend out that kind of money and expend that much effort when you can target civilians a lot more cheaply and easily.

For the kind of money it would take to build a simple UAV - even a small one with a tiny payload designed to create havoc at the local footy match - you can hand deliver (courtesy of a ready supply of willing human agents) a much larger payload to said footy match or a lot of small payloads to different locations around the country and really get people shitting themselves.

The terrorists most likely want to get the best value for money, not waste $$$ on model vehicles and guidance systems when they can sink their resources into more ordnance and get more/bigger bangs. Remember, they're bankrolling it themselves, not using tax-payer funding - only large governments can afford to throw away large amounts of cash on sparkly toys.

Of course, the various Military-Industrial Complexes have to hype up the possibilities of Terrorists(tm) using such tech to convince the various morons^H^H^H^H^H^H politicians to ante up funding for their own UAVs and diverse anti-guided missile junk. The last thing the MICs want is for the governments to think that the terrorists are a minor threat. They design and build high-tech battlefield weapons that would be ideal in an out-and-out conflict with, say, the USSR but the "Commie Bastards" are actually mostly playing nice so the only option is to spin things to convey the impression that its only a matter of time before the "Terrorists" develop hostile UAVs and sophisticated killer robots.

Never mind that the terrorists are never going to engage the military in a conventional fashion where UAVs, killer robots and sophisticated countermeasures are advantageous, just hype up the "potential threat" and shout "terrorists" often enough and the governments will buy anything being touted as the latest magic bullet in the "War On Terror (tm)".

And for the politicians it has the advantage of looking like you're taking the threat seriously and doing everything you can, "exploring every possibility", "preparing for every contingency" etc etc and you can say - after someone boards a packed subway car wearing "clothing by Dupont" - "well, we tried everything we could to prevent it happening."

While I agree that a small UAV or a swarm of them would be devastating if used on unprotected civilian mobs, the likelihood of anyone, other than the World's large military forces, wasting their money on them is infinitesimally small.

Perhaps, as a member of the public (and therefore more likely to be targetted by TERRORISTS!!!!!!!! than the local military base or our Prime Minister) I should take to carrying a shotgun loaded with buckshot around with me so I can defend myself (and all those around me) from any R/C planes that might be terrorist-built UAVs. There was an R/C plane buzzing around the park next to my house a few weekends ago - must've been something wrong with the GPS co-ords as it seemed to be circling as if lost. Also the payload failed to go off but next time I'd better break out the Mossberg and deal to it for the sake of my kids...

Cheers for a great article, Lewis.

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Dead Vulture

Could one sparrow bear a coconut from Africa...

to England? Or two, if one grasped the front of the coconut and the other the nether extremity? And were the latter the case, would it not then lie within the realm of possibility that a plastique-bearing coconut could also be lifted by such sparrows? And had they been crossed with homing pigeons and trained to return to a target of choice, would not said ornithococological weapon constitute the gravest threat to freedom-loving peoples in general and Trafalgar Square in particular?

This grade-school obsession with the manners and modes of ingenious and gruesome (though highly improbable) death is highly entertaining, but let's also remember that if we just erect a cordon sanitaire around the Middle East (to protect them from us, not us from them) and then buy oil from the last man (or woman) standing, we will be able to do so in peace, comfort and security.

But that's not really the point, is it?

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Alert

I think the article misses the point

The big issue with robokillers is that they don't have to have a great success rate to be effective. If you are going to blow yourself up (or expose yourself to jail) to kill the PM (or your neighbor) you certainly want to be sure that, once you get past the non return point, you have high chances of success. But with a bot you are not risking much. Send the drone and see if you get him. If not, you can try again another day, with little risk. And even if you fail you've certainly scared him to hell.

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Dead Vulture

you're a git

Sorry about the title, I do respect your reporting but... Your hand waved analysis has neglected some options that a determined inventive fellow could employ.

1) Anti-personnel grenades, the sort you might find in a MLRS or ATACMS (steel rain) rocket, are light, easily deployed when the target area is reached, and very very very nasty to flesh. I'm sure there are some you can pick up from the former USSR.

2) Rocket launched guided gliders can lift significantly heavier payloads than your model aircraft example. Rocket motors are available to the hobby market (would need a lot though, maybe not feasible) and failing that even the stone age inhabitants of Gaza have figured out the chemistry.

I’m not saying that such an avenue of attack would be very effective (more than once at least) but it is not nearly as silly as you suggest.

< lesson >

Just because you can’t think of a way to make it work does not mean it’s not realistic.

</ lesson >

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Coat

@ Derek Hellam

"Two platoon of squaddies with rifles and 2 GPMG's tried to shoot down a radio controlled aircraft flying backwards and forwards along their trench, they never hit it once!"

There's the problem right there. Should've used a couple of dozen seasoned duck hunters with shotguns.

Only problem would be when their dog brings the damned thing to them with the timer on the C4 still ticking...

Err, yeah, the camo jacket with the 12ga shells and duck call in the pocket, mate...

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Pirate

If you're planning a revolution...

...then the LAST thing you want to do is terrorise Johnny Public. You want the common people to support your revolution, since it's for them and their freedom, and you won't win that support by targeting the public with random bombings.

While bombing Parliament is an obvious choice, it won't work. The real culprits are the major corporate shareholders who bully our governments into passing these stupid laws. So a sensible revolutionary would conduct research into who owns majority shares in the Fortune 500, then target them, their homes and their families while leaving the public alone. Start killing only the super-rich corporate controllers, and you'd have an awful lot of popular support. That would mean members of the revolution could rely on the public providing "safe havens" and underground running much like the French Resistance during WWII. You might even have inside help from members of the police who, after all, are struggling to get by on piss-all pay like you and I are!

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Anonymous Coward

Nonsense.

Todays enthusiast isn't limited by technology or money, he's limited by imagination. Same with the terroists really, if they can't imagine it they can't do it. Fortunatley the people with the imaginations tend to imagine their way out of the fundamentalist mentality quite quickly.

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The FAA's already on top of this.....

The size and performance of planes available to the public is carefully controlled to the "bounce off office buildings" energy levels. Its one of the conditions that allowed GA to restart in the US.

As for using models as weapons delivery systems I suggest you try a low cost experiment first. Go to the hobby store and buy a low cost model plane, a park flier or a combat wing. Then practice flying it through a window frame (without glass, of course). You'll find it rather difficult even when you're right by the frame, but when you master this move the frame one or two hundred meters away. If you still can ace this strap half a pound of lead onto the plane (don't want to get too ambitious). In the unlikely event that the plane gets off the ground then try flying it through the window frame.

I'll guarantee you'll fail this training course.

You could try with a helicopter. They're really difficult to fly, though (and they lift even less).

Like I said, the FAA are up to speed on this. They're not entirely stupid. Politicians, journalists and the like -- anyone's guess.

The best use for models is observation. A lot of the smaller UAVs are models with a high cost "sensor package" attached to it. (Look up "Coularis" on youTube for a home made version...)

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Stop being imperialist swine

If the US/UK terror gang stopped killing and tormenting people then they mightn't get blown to bits. I know it's a radical concept but maybe that huge army romping around the middle east killing for oil is contributing to the motivation of these "terrorists".

It goes like this: Foreigners invade your country and kill parts of your family. You decide to get even. You set off a big fucking bomb in their faces.

Perhaps if the US/UK could avoid invading countries and killing lots of people they might not blow up bits of the US/UK. Of course even if they set off a bomb every week it would be less damaging to society than the removal of civil liberties and the building of a massively invasive control network such as ECHELON. These degenerate spook types are the real problem.

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Who needs RF?

Funny, the first thing that came to mind when the problem of remote-control came up was: mobile phone Cells and FemtoCells. With mobile capabilities already built into hand-held PCs, "smartphones", PPCs and laptops, how hard would it be to control your chopper via a decent 3G datalink? or even EDGE?

In the middle of an urban area, the security services will have a hard time figuring tracking your signal, embedded deep within the local Telco's signals.

and if *I* can think of something this obvious....

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IT Angle

Kiwi Cruise Missile

Bruce Simpson is alive and well, not in cuffs and still running his current affairs website, Aardvark Daily, despite his cruise missile project.

As others have said, the main terrorists are the bureaucracy-industrial complexes that convert terror->taxes->useless countermeasures->personal gain. These people kill infinitely more citizens and waste infinitely more money than any real terrorist attack. They just do it much more discretely generally - though GW Bush is an exception.

The real fallacy is that most terrorists want to create terror. They don't, they think that terror is the route to what they really want. By far the best defence is to change that thought. The truly psychopathic fringe is then be shorn of any support and we only need solutions that deal with individual lunatics or criminals and the smaller level of risk they pose.

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Thumb Down

Re: Nonsense

"Todays enthusiast isn't limited by technology or money, he's limited by imagination. Same with the terroists really, if they can't imagine it they can't do it. Fortunatley the people with the imaginations tend to imagine their way out of the fundamentalist mentality quite quickly."

Well, or some of them end up in positions where they use that imagination to think up counter-measures. That's incidentally one of the main real reasons why we don't need to worry much: because for every Baldrick with a cunning plan on their side, we have a few guys of our own who already figured out that possibility and came up with a few cunning plans of their own to deal with it.

E.g., what seems utterly lost on Lewis is that the army, well, that's what they _do_: think up plans.

Because _if_ the shit ever hits the fan, you don't want to be paralyzed while you figure out what to do. Being caught without a plan is how Poland and France got pwned in WW2: by the time they finally figured out how to react, it was too late.

By contrast, when Japan in WW2 started their clever plan of how to deal with the US battleships... guess what? Someone at the US Navy already had a plan. It was battle plan orange, IIRC.

From the lowly individual soldier (you want him to just instinctively know what to do in the most common situations) to whole armies and taskforces. You want that shit thought up in advance, and drilled in advance.

If tomorrow he dwarves started pouring out from under mountains, and the elves came out of the woods riding unicorns, probably someone at some HQ already has some plan for _that_ scenario too. Or knows which other plan can be modified for that situation.

It's what they _do_. It's what we pay them for.

Most of those plans will never be used, but that's ok. We don't want more wars, after all. But if just one of them happens to be the right one, it can save you a lot of headaches.

In this case, _if_ it ever happens, yeah, I'd want a general to come out and say the magic words, "We Have A Plan." Even if it's about putting up GPS jammers, I want them to have thought up in advance where, how powerful, and how to deal with toy planes that got past those anyway. I want them to already have figured out what caliber guns to use on them, and how to drill the soldiers to shoot them down.

Again, that's what their job _is_.

But that all seems lost on Lewis and the general "OMG, anyone thinking about anything is an idiot" tone that The Register took in the last couple of years. Anyone doing any research must be an arse clown, and anyone thinking about potential military threats must be a scare-monger, right?

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Gold badge

@"Fly a Cessna into a building"

All well and good, but a gen-u-ine terrorist (rather than a pissed-off kid) would have the sense to stuff it with yer good old-fashioned fertilizer bomb first. That will provide the kaboom missing in the above example (detonator on a dead-man switch will do nicely here).

To be honest, this is where the threat (if there has to be one) probably lies. The military style UAVs get their lethality from their payload. That'll be such things as Hellfire missiles, GPS guided 250lb bombs 'n such that yer average terrorist isn't going to have or want ('cos getting 'em is going to attract some unwanted attention from the sort of people who like to know where these sort of things are).

I reckon the kamikaze Cessna full of nasty but easy to get stuff is far more likely than some bunch of jihadi tossers building a Predatoralike in their back garden and kitting it out with some tasty black-market mil-spec ordnance.

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