Monday, December 21, 2009

Micro Air Vehicles

This youtube video demonstrates the versatility of military Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), otherwise known as bugbots.

Remotely controlled, insect-size UAVs are the ultimate in close or convert reconnaissance. Computer technology and battery power has finally reached the point where microbots — the next step before nanobots — are feasible. Given modern, mass-produced nanoscale computer chip technology, it is likely that the "brain" of each microbot will cost only a few dollars per chip. Quite unusual for defense technologies. (of course, the brain is only one part of a larger technology system, once you include all the remote control systems)

DARPA has sought technology like this for a while (BBC report from 2006). Maybe they are now a reality?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Unmanned submersible crosses Atlantic

Washington Post reports:

An aquatic glider called the Scarlet Knight, a 7-foot-9-inch submersible device, shaped like a large-winged torpedo, had just become the first robot to cross an ocean.

Scarlet's recovery on Dec. 4 ended a trip that began April 27 off the coast of New Jersey. For those seven months she was directed by computer, modem, satellite and GPS device from a control room on the Rutgers campus and, one time, from Palmer Research Station in Antarctica. Most of the time, however, the glider was out of contact underwater, moving slowly up and down to depths of 600 feet, safe from ships, nets and storms.

I have often wondered about the feasibility of unmanned, undersea vehicles (UUVs). Although slow, they could move cargo easily. Surveillance missions could be conducted, just like the science mission described in the article. For the military, you could send a swarm of UUVs towards a target, confident that several would reach their target regardless of a robust enemy defense.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beast of Kandahar

AvationWeek reports: The secret is out. The U.S. Air Force has confirmed the existence of the “Beast of Kandahar” UAV that was seen flying out of Afghanistan in late 2007. The jet aircraft – a tailless flying wing with sensor pods faired into the upper surface of each wing – is the RQ-170 Sentinel, developed by Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. An Air Force official revealed to Aviation Week Friday afternoon that the service is “developing a stealthy unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to forward deployed combat forces.”