US military embraces robot 'revolution'

A prototype of the X-47B Navy Unmannded Combat Air System (UCAS)
A prototype of the X-47B Navy Unmannded Combat Air System (UCAS) sits on diplay at Naval Air Station Pax River Webster Field Annex in St. Inigoes, Maryland, on August 10. The X-47B, made by Northrop Grumman Corporation, is to demonstrate the first-ever carrier-based autonomous launches and recoveries.

Robots in the sky and on the ground are transforming warfare, and the US military is rushing to recruit the new warriors that never sleep and never bleed.

The latest robotics were on display at an industry show this week at a naval airfield in Maryland, with a pilotless helicopter buzzing overhead and a "Wall-E" look-alike robot on the ground craning its neck to peer into a window.

The chopper, the MQ-8B Fire Scout, is no tentative experiment and later this year will be operating from a naval frigate, the USS McInerney, to help track drug traffickers in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Navy officers said.

The rugged little robot searching an enemy building is called a Pakbot, which can climb over rocks with tank treads, pick up an explosive with its mechanical arm and dismantle it while a soldier directs the machine from a safe distance.

There are already 2,500 of them on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a lighter version weighing six kilograms (14 pounds) has arrived that can be carried in a backpack, according to iRobot, the same company that sells a vaccum to civilians, the Roomba.

Monday's demonstration of robotic wonders was organized by defense contractors and the US Navy, which says it wants to lead the American military into a new age where tedious or high-risk jobs are handed over to robots.

"I think we're at the beginning of an unmanned revolution," Gary Kessler, who oversees unmanned aviation programs for the US Navy and Marines, told AFP.

"We're spending billions of dollars on unmanned systems."

Kessler and other officials compare the robots to the introduction of the aircraft or the tank, a new technology that dramatically changes strategy and tactics.

Robots or "unmanned systems" are now deployed by the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan, spying from the sky for hours on end, searching for booby-traps and firing lethal missiles without putting US soldiers at risk.

The use of robotics in the military has exploded in the past several years as technology has advanced while Washington faced a new kind of enemy that required patient, precise surveillance.

In 2003, the US military had almost no robots in its arsenal but now has 7,000 unmanned aircraft and at least 10,000 ground vehicles.

The US Air Force, which initially resisted the idea of pilotless planes, said it trains more operators for unmanned aircraft than pilots for its fighter jets and bombers.

Peter Singer, author of "Wired for War," writes that future wars may see tens of thousands of unmanned vehicles in action, possibly facing off against fleets of enemy robots.

Unlike expensive weapons from the Cold War-era, robotic vehicles are not off-limits to countries with modest defense budgets and dozens of governments are investing in unmanned programs.

At the trade show, military officers from the United States, Chile, Australia, Saudi Arabia and India listened to defense contractors promote their robotic vehicles, including a tiny helicopter about two-feet long and L3's Mobius -- a nimble medium-sized drone that reaches speeds of up to 215 knots.

The technology may sometimes resemble something out of "Star Wars" or a toy shop, but the robots determine matters of life and death on the battlefront.

In the fight against Al-Qaeda, drones are Washington's favored weapon.

Predator and Reaper aircraft, armed with precision-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles, regularly carry out strikes in Pakistan's northwest tribal area, causing an unknown number of civilian casualties.

Last week, a drone strike is believed to have have killed the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud.

The unmanned aircraft in the US military's inventory range from small Ravens, that can be tossed into the air to see over the next hill, to the giant Global Hawk, a 44-foot-long spy plane that can fly at high altitude for up to 35 hours.

The drones and ground vehicles are often operated using joysticks or consoles familiar to a younger generation raised on video games.

"Soldiers these days have a lot of experience playing video games when they're growing up, and they're really familiar with these controls. So this really reduces the training time on these types of unmanned vehicles," said Charlie Vaida of iRobot, which makes a game console for the Pakbot.

Amid plans for unmanned bomber jets for aircraft carriers, the onslaught of drones could eventually render fighter aces a relic of history.

Military officers insist the robots are a complement and not a substitute for traditional aircraft, and pose no threat to the careers of their fellow pilots.

"I think they understand we're not going to replace them," said Captain Tim Dunnigan, a navy chopper pilot. "This is going to augment them."

(c) 2009 AFP


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Aug 13, 2009
if it's controlled by a human being, it's still a piloted craft, not a robot

Aug 13, 2009
This is part of the reason why technological innovation in the United States has stagnated - We have been locked into a late 20th century consumer mode and all work that might move us forward has been redirected into military battle systems.

Only fields that result in trivial advance or that reinforce the status quo are allowed to progress. All other potentials are herded into the military industrial complex.

So this means we get to spend trillions for new types of bombs, but face economic collapse at home because we are all out of ideas and have closed down all the factories.

Aug 13, 2009
Techno innovation has not stagnated. That's silly. Taking off on the military is misguided. There is no such thing as "allowed to progress". That's nuts.

We face economic collapse when our federal government writes half of all mortgages, and 40% of all subprime mortgages, and then requires lenders to write even more subprimes. And then housing prices soar, and then they collapse.

We face economic collapse when, in spite of 9.4% unemployment, our government imports 1.6 million legal workers per year. That's 60% of the 2.5 million who lost jobs in the last year.

We face collapse when the Fed keeps interest rates too low, too long. This subsidizes and encourages risky, foolish behavior.

We face economic collapse when, as today, government expenditures of $6.3 trillion of a $14 trillion economy are 45% of GDP.

We face economic collapse when we waste $787 billion on a phony stimulus package, when cap-and-trade plans to eliminate 80% of our fossil fuels, which are 80% of our energy supply. And carbon tax the economy trillions, and drive millions more jobs offshore. Then, the government tries to take over health care, another 17% of the economy. Brilliant.

Government has caused disasters in housing, energy, food prices, health prices, education, and retirement savings. So of course, we need much more government, right?

We face economic collapse because government (federal, state, local) is spending $55,000 per household per year, US average. That's more than the median family income. Are you getting your $55,000 worth of government? Me neither.

Aug 13, 2009
Unfortunately it's a double edged sword, unlike aircrafts drones are within reach of many nations and once their mass production starts they will end up in the hands of terrorists. The next challenge will be developing efficient counter-drone measures.

Aug 13, 2009
why don't we design these tools to destroy weapons and not necessarily to kill people- kind of the way humane police prefer. That way perhaps reconciliation can be more easily found and many more lives spared.

Aug 13, 2009
Techno innovation has not stagnated. That's silly. Taking off on the military is misguided. There is no such thing as "allowed to progress". That's nuts.



We face economic collapse when our federal government writes half of all mortgages, and 40% of all subprime mortgages, and then requires lenders to write even more subprimes. And then housing prices soar, and then they collapse.



We face economic collapse when, in spite of 9.4% unemployment, our government imports 1.6 million legal workers per year. That's 60% of the 2.5 million who lost jobs in the last year.



We face collapse when the Fed keeps interest rates too low, too long. This subsidizes and encourages risky, foolish behavior.



We face economic collapse when, as today, government expenditures of $6.3 trillion of a $14 trillion economy are 45% of GDP.



We face economic collapse when we waste $787 billion on a phony stimulus package, when cap-and-trade plans to eliminate 80% of our fossil fuels, which are 80% of our energy supply. And carbon tax the economy trillions, and drive millions more jobs offshore. Then, the government tries to take over health care, another 17% of the economy. Brilliant.



Government has caused disasters in housing, energy, food prices, health prices, education, and retirement savings. So of course, we need much more government, right?



We face economic collapse because government (federal, state, local) is spending $55,000 per household per year, US average. That's more than the median family income. Are you getting your $55,000 worth of government? Me neither.

What an ignorant rant. Not once in your rant have you put any culpability on the corporations that have a fudiciary duty to the shareholder to not go out of business due to negligence. I think I just wasted my time trying to educate a birther.

Aug 13, 2009
"No such thing as 'allowed'"

The commanding forces at the helm of our military industrial complex are actual, identifiable human beings with budget authority of $X.

Their decisions in which technologies to pursue have become the major breadwinner in American high energy physics applications.

This unfortunate consequence of allowing the "military-industrial complex" to reach such a size and level of power results in a need to reform both the technologies being developed and the powers that formerly governed them.

I propose an entirely new development model in America, one that is not controlled by the interests of power and war, but rather by the domestic need and the wisest and most farsighted minds.

I'd prefer each of you to comment what the greatest domestic need of the United States of America is.

Aug 13, 2009
If we were to calculate the most effective activity for our nation-state to be doing right now, what would it be?

Let's answer this by playing king of the hill. I'll stand at the top of this nearby star system with habitable worlds. Due to my early arrival to this particularly verdant and free land, I not only will have the best land stakes, but it's very likely my people will be better established than any other people attempting to settle later on.

Our people would then become majority share holders of an entire world, expanding to perfectly sustainable and happy habitations in her choicest and most civilized climates.

Depending on the ability of our fundholders and "directors" to understand this basic and fundamental reasoning, our expansion rate will be greater or lessor when faced with the rapid and envious developments of the other nations we outperformed in this endeavor.

Therefore, after considering the effect of being 2nd place in this particular battle for the hill, I resolved to make a more steady progress into interstellar spacecraft engines capable of >.3 G sustained acceleration.

Sustained and renewed by encountering this particulary Darwinian keyhole of human progress, I begin to more strenously loathe the recent decision to channel not only 1 entire year's worth of GDP to the banksters, but all next years' as well!

Aug 14, 2009
I really like this new doctrine adopted by the US Military and all its copycats. It's just so tastily flawed, it makes me want to obtain political power in an African state and raise an army to take them on.

I'm not sure, but I believe there isn't a single USAF plane capable of combat that can operate without electronics these days. Do they even teach new pilots how to navigate without GPS anymore? And it's not just the air force. I wonder if an M1A1 hit the broad side of a barn with its onboard computer offline. All that remains now is to switch to caseless, electronically fired ammo and maybe powered exoskeletons for the infantry and you get the Hazbro Electric Army Set(batteries not included).

Well, a third-world dictator would just need to get his hands on a former Soviet scientist and have him design a portable, easily mass produced version of this:
http://en.wikiped...enerator

Or he could let the US economy take care of everything.

Aug 14, 2009
Unfortunately it's a double edged sword, unlike aircrafts drones are within reach of many nations and once their mass production starts they will end up in the hands of terrorists. The next challenge will be developing efficient counter-drone measures.


Woulden't a missile work?

assuming that there is no radar canceling skin on it like a stealth bomber

Aug 15, 2009
I looked that up and it seems an EMP bomb was indeed used, to disable Iraqi TV, but I think the payoff was marginal at best. Now, if such a device were used in some big American city...

Laser systems are another example of technological overkill that ultimately fails against traditional pointy-stick&stones techniques. I once heard an account of a fighter jet that got shot down with an AK rifle. Surely a 100kg drone could be brought down easier, cheaper and more reliably by a conscript with a rifle, or say a Stinger missile than by a computer handling a several kW laser. Speaking of computers handling guns: http://en.wikiped...n_combat

As for missile defence, I imagine beam orientation and targeting would be done with precision optics and not servos. I'd like to see sensitive equipment like that work in desert/jungle conditions.

Another example- ww2 enabled the destruction of all those religion-based subcultures which would have resisted the 1 BILLION abortions which began right afterward, arguably the most significant result of that war.


Which religious subcultures are you speaking of? Since you mentioned Israel, one outcome of WW2 was the formation of that state. Then, sometime during(maybe before?) the Cold War the Israeli and the Americans became very good friends and as friends help each other out, the IDF now have the second largest F15 fleet in the world and probably have a fidelity discount on any purchase of arms from the US government. Of course, this is all in the interest of peace-keeping! Again, despite the vast technological superiority, Iraq and Gaza are still basically warzones.

Last but not least, on the topic of WW2, let's not forget that one Panzer driven by an elite SS crew could take out 4 allied tanks, but the Battle of the Kursk was won by T-34s driven by hungry peasants. I'm not even going to mention Vietnam...

Aug 15, 2009
The payoff in Baghdad was the test of this tech in actual combat.


Yeah, weapons' testing seems to have become a major stimulant for starting wars these days. Which is why I'm expecting the next big thing to come from SE Asia.

I'm not saying war isn't beneficial to scientific advance, or demographics for that matter. I'm just discussing efficiency, perhaps more on a tactical level.

Air supremacy is a definite necessity in a roughly symmetric conflict, but it becomes grossly cost ineffective in asymmetric warfare. Of course airpower owned Iraq and Afghanistan, there wasn't too much of an opposition, was there, but consider the media&PR costs of those mistargeted bombings along with the operating costs of a single carrier-borne fighter/bomber. Compare with the costs of Cold War era AA guns. I think you can buy a dozen or so, plus ammo, with the money spent on one "smart" air-to-ground missile, and crewing necessities are about the same as for a jet.

Kursk, and the whole of WW2 really, demonstrated that numerical superiority beats technology. On the other hand, cracking the Enigma and radar development proved that Sun Tzu's principles are still valid. Armies are worthless without proper intelligence gathering and communication systems. Still, you can't compare crypto and radio with lasers and nuclear subs. There's techs that need a 10th of the planet's resources to be developed, and there's techs you can develop in a small university lab.

With Vietnam I was thinking about the M16 vs. AK-47 argument, again pure tactical considerations. I'm guessing you're familiar with it. If democracy really worked, the damn war wouldn't have started to begin with, or at least would've ended sooner, don't you think? Frankly, I think democracy is just a fancy word for mob rule...

About the abortions thing, I kinda doubt the suppression of certain cultures greatly influenced those statistics. As I recall, there was a massive baby boom just after the war. It seems logical for the number of abortions to rise along with the number of total pregnancies. Also, with economies barely out of war and focused on reconstruction, I don't think people would've been too keen on having unwanted babies regardless of what the clergy said. Double also, the cultures you mentioned would've been quite poor to begin with, so even if they would've refused abortion, infantile mortality would've evened the demographic balance.


Aug 15, 2009
Lasers and UAVs- consider swarms crossing a 1500 mi border or launched offshore. Lasers can be retargeted optically multiple times a second and instantly hit targets miles away. We (the west- the world?) will need another conflict to prove this emerging tech. A great danger is that alternate energy research will enable powerful lasers in very small packages. Commercial aircraft, LNG facilities, govt buildings at risk from apartments, vans, chevy Volts-


Those swarms would need either a centralised command base, or intercommunication. Both imply electronic warfare, which, as I stated earlier is accessible to smaller countries as well. Consider a few hundred drones simultaneously dropping like flies, or going kamikaze on their home base. I imagine a skilled hacker with a powerful transmitter could do something like that. Remember EMP weapons, also.

If we ever get alternative energy sources that enable hand carried beam weaponry, I'd really like to think there won't be any reason left for human conflict. Or at the very least, let it be religious in nature and require wars to be fought with more elegant weapons, like swords(lightsabers included), or Go.


Aug 16, 2009
Intelligent or not, they still need sensors and comm systems. The latter is especially necessary if swarm tactics are to be used effectively on a large battlefield. As for the former, a pilot can still keep the plane flying w/o GPS, radar, IR imaging or cameras, provided he has one or two working analog sensors on board and good vision. A drone needs all that tech for both navigation and combat, since they're basically reusable missiles. So, a pretty cheap way to deal with them would be plain old chaff and flares or, if they use cameras for target discrimination, camouflage and decoys. Inflatable tanks worked against humans, they'll sure as hell work on AI.


Now, let me get this straight. Are you actually saying sitcoms have been used as a demographic engineering tool in the US?





Aug 16, 2009
I shoot down your defenseless satellites. What now?

Aug 16, 2009
otto1923: I know the media greatly influences society, but what I'm questioning is the idea that there's someone with a master plan, that there's a well defined purpose towards which people are manipulated by an individual or a group/government. Sure, you have interest groups and cartels, but there's a big leap from corporate strategists and Leto II Atreides.

People who can truly think up decades-spanning strategies are rare at best and few of them end up in the positions of power required for implementing their plans. Those positions are reserved for egomaniacs, over-achievers and generally stupid, ambitious people. It'll be some time till hereditary power dynasties die out, too.

Snake(guess what my name's an anagram for): That's a bit drastic, don't you think? If you had that capacity to begin with, it'd best be kept as contingency. Get some high altitude weather balloons and jam the satellite's transmission over the battlefield. Furthermore, you could probably replicate the signal from the ground and lead them wherever you want, capture them and reprogram their IFF protocol. Team-killing bots. And since they're technically weapons, you're not violating any war regulation.

Aug 17, 2009
I prefer the valueless, relativistic approach. No amount of bureaucracy, planning and organisation will ever suppress our animal instincts so it's useless to come up with grand utopian schemes for the entire race. People are stupid and they like to suffer, so just let them I say. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, after all.

I gave up on world domination several years ago but I'm still human, unfortunately, and therefore prone to stupidity. So every now and then I get the urge to conquer stuff or start a religion. Thankfully I have the Internet to show me the error of my ways. And booze.


Aug 17, 2009
Kasen:

It would be unreasonable to assume that there WASN'T coordinated agendas on behalf of the controlling interests of the world's resources.

To deny the existence of secret plans, groups, etc, is to deny human behavior and verges on delusional.

Even small time power brokers scheme and plot, and we all accept this. But when we trace the powers to their pinnacles, we suddenly become paralyzed and our reasoning ability seems to vanish.

It's not a matter of "conspiracy theory" but rather an honest observation of the conditions of reality. You can't expect people to gain the immense amounts of wealth and power available from modern life, and then somehow expect them to operate in a total vaccuum with complete fidelity to Socratic virtue and the US constitution. It's not reasonable to expect this.

But somehow, there are those out there who INSIST that the unreasonable is indeed the truth, and that there is no private agenda, no priveleged ideology and of couse, no corruption in power.

Responsible, adult people should all have the same tact when regarding powerful and wealthy groups and persons - They are guilty until proven innocent and we must constantly enforce the laws that were designed to keep persons and groups from abusing the rest of us.

Aug 18, 2009
I wasn't denying or confirming anything. Lacking proof, it'd be completely unscientific. You can make a parallel with religious issues here. It practically boils down to intelligent design vs. natural selection. The beauty of the thing is, you can explain it in both ways, since it's unlikely you'll ever get definitive proof and confirmation for one or the other.

You can say the current global or local state of affairs is the result of one master plan concocted by a few people, or, I quote:
"This may be hard for you to understand, but there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It's a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan. Can you grasp that? Big Brother is not watching you."(from 'The Cube'; fantastic film)

Either variant is perfectly valid, much like Schroedinger's cat is both dead and alive. Unlike the aforementioned feline, however, you can't open the box of global power distribution, since there is no box to speak of. Thermodynamically speaking, it's an open system and one with at least 6 billion particles with practically an infinity of degrees of freedom each. Political masterminds are like seed crystals, instilling structure in their vicinity(time and space).

No structure lasts forever, though, being subjected to the chaos of the particles it doesn't encompass. That's why, from a purely theoretical/statistical point of view, mankind has always lived in anarchy.

Laws are nothing but catalysts to change. Those who obey them are those with servant mentality, docile and gentle, those who don't, egotistic sociopaths. With or without laws, you still end up with aggressive, disobedient people 'hunting' peaceful, obedient people, it's just that laws accentuate the differences between people and therefore make the process of natural selection a lot faster and more accessible to scrutiny by our short-lived selves.

Which of course could be just part of Hammurabi's master plan for achieving transcendence by transforming the human race into a huge computation machine with his consciousness embedded in it. Of course, the final step will be taken on 12.12.2012, when the simultaneous concentration of billions of minds on the same meme will kick-start the holistic systems and a global consciousness will awake. Mark my words!

Aug 18, 2009
Wow what a tangent. Don't know what to say about Hammurabi coming back to rule us from a digital consciousness. Is that the most sane expectation for the future?

When I look at the center of development and activity in America, I see the war-machine makers and their partners in power taking the lion's share of money and attention.

We can't expect an investment in destruction and death to pay us anything useful back. Unless of course it's chaos and destruction of human life you are after to begin with.

These technologies don't improve our lives or make us free, if anything they increase the powers of the rulers and diminish our liberty. The most just use of these technologies would be to destroy tyrants and despots at home and abroad, rather than the lives of petty rebels and innocents.

Aug 18, 2009
Wow what a tangent. Don't know what to say about Hammurabi coming back to rule us from a digital consciousness. Is that the most sane expectation for the future?

When I look at the center of development and activity in America, I see the war-machine makers and their partners in power taking the lion's share of money and attention.

We can't expect an investment in destruction and death to pay us anything useful back. Unless of course it's chaos and destruction of human life you are after to begin with.

These technologies don't improve our lives or make us free, if anything they increase the powers of the rulers and diminish our liberty. The most just use of these technologies would be to destroy tyrants and despots at home and abroad, rather than the lives of petty rebels and innocents.

Aug 18, 2009
Wow what a tangent. Don't know what to say about Hammurabi coming back to rule us from a digital consciousness. Is that the most sane expectation for the future?


I'm not the sanest person to be making predictions, of that you can be certain. Oh, and I forgot to mention Hammurabi's arch-nemesis, Stephen Wolfram. He's going for the same thing, but he's using the Internet instead.

Regarding any form of evidence, whether proving or disproving any theory, there's the Law of Fives.

Whether humans(or reptilians, if you wish) actually came up with the Structure, or it just emerged out of chaos, it doesn't really matter, does it? It's there, it's active, self-sustained and no matter what you do, you're part of it. Best thing you can do is have fun while you're at it. You know, use your illusion.



Aug 18, 2009
I'm not really sure where you guys are taking this thread. I hope you have fun on the way though!

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