back to article Stop us if you've heard this one before: Seamen spread over California

In October, three F/A-18 Super Hornet jets dropped an unusual payload into the air over the US Navy's China Lake weapons testing facility in California – more than 100 semi-autonomous drones. The Perdix drones, 6- by 12-inch propeller-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were fired out of the flare dispensers of the …

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Swarms of weaponized suicide drones

What could possibly go wrong?

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Re: Swarms of weaponized suicide drones

Don't worry, all you need to do is transmit some loud rock music over FM and the swarm will explode.

(Such a shame, that film had started quite well...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Swarms of weaponized suicide drones

What if someone used these little ensects [sic] to deliver medicine, or water, or marijuana seeds, or little packets of ketchup? The chances for use cases that are helpful are possible.

E-Insects, ensects. I read about these almost 10 years ago and they were going to be built to look like bees and other tiny insects. If they can get a tiny R/C vehicle of that size to fly outdoors, then I want one too! Most of my tiny flyers can't cope with even the slightest breeze without crashing uncontrollable to the ground.

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Big Brother

Re: Swarms of weaponized suicide drones

"What could possibly go wrong?"

Uhh ...

Everything?

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Coat

Re: Swarms of weaponized suicide drones

all you need to do is transmit some loud rock music over FM

Aha, the true reason for ending FM broadcasting now comes to light...

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Coat

Re: Swarms of weaponized suicide drones

Queen or Twisted Sister?*

* /me dusts off VHS copy of "Iron Eagle"

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Coat

Stains?

When they crash land?

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Anonymous Coward

Prey by Michael Crichton

Just saying.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Prey by Michael Crichton

Or our answer to the zombie problem?

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Anonymous Coward

Great Minds Think A Like

"The Perdix drones...communicate wirelessly"

That would have been one of my design criteria too.

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Devil

Re: Great Minds Think A Like

You are a bit late to the party. So is USA. By 20+ years.

Read up on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P-700_Granit

Third paragraph.

And thanks god, this has never been fired in anger.

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Coat

Re: Great Minds Think A Like

Thumbs up for the humour but rice paste and ground glass...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-37103668 (3 deaths)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-26818155 (ban in pakistan)

and (sorry about the caps it's a press release)

FOTOKITE PHI IS A $250 DRONE ON A STRING THAT DOESN’T REQUIRE ANY PILOTING SKILL TO FLY

The one thing I would question about this project is communication, a predator/ reaper directionally beams to a satellite so jamming's not easy. Smart bombs are laser locked so no RF interference involved. These are peer to peer low power so can't be faraday caged, so that star trek scenario above with white noise might be a viable defence.

Also I'd love to see the control room used for these things examining the road, the may have solved the Pratchett conundrum, "Why do you have six monitors on your desk?" "Because I don't have enough space for eight".

And lastly "Think of the children" - (as a grizzled old sod, defining anyone who can't buy alcohol legally in the USA) Project Perdix is one of the "capstone projects" from the incongruously named "Beaver Works" at MIT's Lincoln Labs, from the 2010 academic year. The project's those kids are working on now (and have done in the past):

rewind to 2009 - "so what do you do at school today?" "I designed and successfully flew a drone that could map out enemy surface to air radar installations". (project Icarus)

2010 - Micro satellites marketed as for weather, reality seem more likely for greater resolution disposable spy satellites (they were always disposable 30+ years ago because of the low orbit requirements).

2012 - "The Trust Framework should support the collection and aggregation of Personal Data from multiple smartphones." (Media Labs project).

2012 and ongoing - Underwater drones specifically increasing range using fuel cells

It's like reading a map to next gen weapons and defence. I'm going to stop before I go off topic onto UK university courses.

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Re: Great Minds Think A Like

And this is different from the past 200 years how exactly? Engineering training/education/research has pretty much always been in service to finding better ways to kill the other guy better.

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Re: Great Minds Think A Like

"a predator/ reaper directionally beams to a satellite so jamming's not easy. "

If you know what frequency it's using then you can swamp the signal the satellite sees - as long as you know which satellite it's using.

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Re: Great Minds Think A Like

"2010 - Micro satellites marketed as for weather, reality seem more likely for greater resolution disposable spy satellites (they were always disposable 30+ years ago because of the low orbit requirements)."

Microsats/cubesats aren't big enough to carry the optics for hi-res spying. Whilst pixel count is one thing and adaptive optics are another, being able to focus through 100 miles of murky atmosphere to read over someone's shoulder still requires big lenses.

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Anonymous Coward

Doing the GCSE physics

From https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/Perdix%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

60 knots =~ 31 m/s, mass =~ 0.25 Kg

F = ma = m * ( (v-u)/t )

So hitting a target and decelerating to 0 in 1/2 second assuming some (a lot of) shock absorption gives 15 Newtons roughly 1.5 times gravity or 1.5 Kg from something weighing under twice the weight of a phone even without working out pressure on impact or making it pointy, that's already a weapon capable of killing a person (people are stoned to death at lower velocity missiles, they have a lot of these flying at one time). Couple of design changes and I wouldn't place bets on an aircraft intake versus a few of these.

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Terminator

Creepy!

That was like some freaky future version of "The Birds!" The noise was unnerving. Creepy even.

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Anonymous Coward

prior art :) black mirror, series 3, episode 6

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hated_in_the_Nation_(Black_Mirror)

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Terminator

Hrm...

Can't tell if Skynet or Borg, but it's gotta be the start of something.

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Re: Hrm...

zerg swarm

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Re: Hrm...

Skynet will be assimilated by the Borg.

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JLV
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A smart cluster bomb system? The regular cluster bombs are kinda semi-banned now, but mostly because they tend to become landmines, with all the civ casualties that causes. Fewer, but smarter, bomblets could be set to detonate on a miss.

In terms of the concept, rather than the current vehicle, this could also be the future of SAM / AA drones. With enough onboard "AI", anything that doesn't IFF as a pal could be ganged up on by powered autonomous drones. Not good for penetration/airstrikes, but it ought to keep enemy flyboys well away from defended assets. Think ME-163s, but more numerous and without a pilot to kill.

This is why $50M+ strike aircraft seem a potentially risky long term bet.

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A smart cluster bomb system?

You could however make each a heat seeking smart bomb be it personel or vehicles

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Facepalm

What is the last thing to go through a swarm's mind as it hits the windscreen of you car?

I guess that in war zones car windscreens will now need to be stronger.

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Black Helicopters

Recycling?

a battery life of around 20 minutes and a top speed of 60mph, and are designed to be dropped and then discarded

So will we have lots of kids in war zones out collecting these and recharging them, then selling them on ebay? If they use primary cells (better power-to-weight anyway) for drop'n'discard use it might even be as simple as popping a few new AA cells in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Recycling?

a battery life of around 20 minutes and a top speed of 60mph, and are designed to be dropped and then discarded

So will we have lots of kids in war zones out collecting these and recharging them, then selling them on ebay? If they use primary cells (better power-to-weight anyway) for drop'n'discard use it might even be as simple as popping a few new AA cells in.

If only kids. This is like all the ammo and equipment left all over the -stan countries as the big forces pulled out (got chased out). We will see these charged up and repurposed against us.

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Terminator

Daniel Suarez - Kill Decision

Some of this this fellow's books are unnervingly prophetic.

In his case however they could also self assembly, communicated by scent markers instead of radio (thake that fm), and, oh yea, were petrol powered killing machines.

He also did a Ted talk on this.

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JLV
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Re: Daniel Suarez - Kill Decision

Second Suarez.

I read Daemon and its sequel and it was an amazing mix of cyber paranoia and grassroots-against-the-system a la Fight Club mixed up with an RPG game worldview.

Not high literature, I am afraid. But really good near-future thriller SF.

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pxd
Terminator

Beat me to it - Daniel Suarez

Just what I was thinking as I read this. Also Michael Crichton, but PREY was about nano-scale kit, and Daniel Suarez writes about things like those in the video. I really hope we are not headed in that direction. pxd

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Mushroom

Baby steps to Skynet, or Berserkers

This kind of thing logically leads to either Skynet (central master of destruction) or Saberhagen's Berserkers (self-directed, independent war machines). However, Skynet won't need a paranoid ego to decide to kill us. Someone will clearly instruct it to do so.

As we seek to remove humans from the battlefield and improve our weapons' efficiency, we're slowly handing the job over to unmanned machines. When these are not directly controlled by a meatsack, they need enough brains on board to perform their tasks.

Increasing defensive measures will require packing more and more autonomy and (limited) intelligence into the H-Ks we build. They will also need to be resistant to attempts to disable or redirect them, meaning hard to stop once unleashed. Good sense will hold things back from the abyss for a while. Eventually someone losing a war or very ideologically motivated will remove all restrictions on their killbots.

It's always my assertion that The Machines won't become self-aware decide to kill us. The human builders will direct that all on their own, and it takes a lot less AI to reach that point.

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JLV
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Re: Baby steps to Skynet, or Berserkers

More prosaically, the bigger short term risk is that wars which do not impose a morale/popularity cost, because there are no coffins coming home, could go on for a long long time.

If the enemies are themselves robots and machines, both sides are just wasting money and resources.

But if it's people getting killed at the other end, then we risk letting ethically dubious foreign policy goals drag us into never-ending conflicts.

There is thankfully little ethical ambiguity with going after ISIS. But look at Vietnam/Cambodia. Or the Central America death squad proxy wars in the 80s (which were bloodless to the US public).

Haldeman, he of 'Forever War', wrote 'Forever Peace', about precisely this kind of remote kill/no home casualties war and the way governments can keep them going. Quite prescient, considered it was written before 2001 and our Predator/Reaper era.

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Headmaster

"The Perdix drones, 6- by 12-inch propeller-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), were fired out of the flare dispensers of the aircraft"

Are you sure about that El Reg? Because from the video it looked to me more like they were dropped from a special purpose pod mounted on a weapon hardpoint.

Also, that noise they make is terrifying.

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Recon

I would say with the small size of these, there would be little benefit in weaponizing them. As a recon device, having a swarm of them spread over a large area looking for movement or metal, they could be invaluable in a tactical environment, which I believe is supported by the way they were deployed. Additionally, they could have safety devices that burn the key chips in the devices when reach a low power state, meaning they couldn't be reused for the same purpose by an enemy.

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