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Old 16-07-2009, 08:20 AM   #1
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Post The military's new "Toys"


Darpa's First Robotic Ornithopter Hovers, Flies Like a Hummingbird
The creepy, tiny wing-flapping UAV, designed for indoor flight, is modelled on hummingbirds
By Anna Maria Jakubek Posted 03.07.2009 at 6:14 am

A few years from now, bird-watchers may be in for a double take: that flapping creature in the distance? Nope, not a bird. Mutant dragon fly? Nope--it's Darpa's latest unmanned aerial robo-sentinel, inspired by the flight mechanics of birds.

The tech company Aerovironment recently won a $2.1 million contract to further their work on the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV). One of many progressive projects from Darpa (the Pentagon's advanced-research unit), the NAV is the first-ever "controlled hovering flight of an air vehicle system with two flapping wings that carries its own energy source and uses only the flapping wings for propulsion and control," says Aerovironment.

In the future, Darpa plans to use the teeny NAV for secret indoor and outdoor government missions, like dropping off listening devices and other cargo, and transmiting sound and video to locations as far as a kilometer away.

The above tasks are, presumably, ones that any small air vehicle could take on--which raises a question: cool factor aside, how is the ornithopter better than any run-of-the-mill tiny helicopter? According to Darpa, the advantages lie in something called the Reynolds number, a measurement of airborne efficiency that is lower (and technologically better) for flying creatures (like hummingbirds) compared to regular aircraft.
Aerovironment plans to make the next batch of birds smaller (10 grams and 7.5 cm), faster (22 mph), quieter, and more wind-resistant.

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Old 16-07-2009, 08:25 AM   #2
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Network of Wi-Fi-Enabled Cyborg Insects Hunts Down WMDs

Latest military news: A wireless network allows electronically enhanced bugs to chirp, tweet, and blog (some day!) about weapons they find
By Dan Smith Posted 18.06.2009 at 4:27 am

Wi-Fi Fly via MI2G http://www.mi2g.com/cgi/mi2g/press/061007.php

In its attempts to quash weapons of mass destruction, the Pentagon has been trying novel ways to track down dangerous materiel. For years, DARPA has been trying to train insects and bugs to sniff out toxic substances, providing more sensitive detection, as well as access that conventional sensors might not have. The newest twist on this concept is a plan to link up armies of the cyborg bugs in a peer-to-peer, or insect-to-insect, network that will allow them to communicate with each other and with their human masters.

Previous research into this field of detection included landmine-sniffing honeybees and mechanized remote-controlled insects. This next approach will implant insects with a chip that reads certain muscle twitches, which correspond to the presence of certain chemicals. The chips will then modify the chirps of insects like cicadas or crickets into an electronic signal that could be transmitted to other chipped insects in the area. Information about detected weaponized chemicals could bounce around this mobile insect network, and then be picked up by humans.

While the idea seems pretty far-fetched, the idea of creating a decentralized communication network between free-roaming insects could radically increase the bugs' range of detection. Still unclear, however, is if this insect Wi-Fi will allow the information-laden chirps to be more than 140 characters long.

[via Wired] http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009...d-offer-wi-fi/
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:27 AM   #3
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A Lightweight Display Brings Instant Army Intelligence to Your Wrist

Latest military news: The flexible, durable, wearable screen could soon be standard issue
By Arnie Cooper Posted 17.06.2009 at 3:09 am

Around the Bend: The Army hopes to squeeze a backpack’s worth of tech into an armband display Bland Design

A special-ops soldier carries a slew of gadgets into battle. There's the GPS unit to pinpoint his squad's location, and a laptop for pulling up blueprints of terrorist compounds or infrared readings of buildings scoped out by robotic surveillance drones. With a radio and its five-pound battery, it's too much gear. But in a couple years, troops could lighten their load with a rugged, flexible, wrist-mounted display that's in development by the U.S. Army and HP Labs.

The solar-powered, bendable computer screen will allow for instant data and radio transmission, all in a half-pound unit, says David Morton, the program manager for flexible electronics at the Army Research Laboratory. The display's thin layer of transistors sends electric signals to an e-ink screen, which converts those signals into grayscale images, similar to the way the Amazon Kindle does. Unlike the Kindle, the two-by-three-inch display can bend to fit around the user's wrist because HP stamps the electronics and optical components onto pliable plastic. The process eliminates the need for the fragile glass backing used in the Kindle and other displays, says Carl Taussig, the director of information surfaces at HP. "You can strike these things with a mallet, and they just keep on working."

While the Army works on a color screen, troops will test the black-and-white device and provide feedback for the final version, which should be ready for military use by 2011.
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:29 AM   #4
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A Word With the Inventor of the Battlefield Snakebot and the Wall-Scaling Snailbot
Latest military news: Israeli roboticist Amir Shapiro looks to the animal kingdom to design robots that can go where humans can't
By John Pavlus Posted 11.06.2009 at 10:10 pm


The Israel Defense Forces are preparing to deploy a camouflage-wearing, camera-toting robot snake. The spybot, which slithers through cracks and caves using principles of motion derived from those of actual snakes, is just one of roboticist Amir Shapiro's clever designs based on animal physiology. We visited Dr. Shapiro's lab at Ben Gurion University of the Negev to get a closer look.

The inventor's guiding principle is one familiar to engineers everywhere: "KISS: keep it simple, stupid." But the applications of the robot prototypes he designs are anything but routine: besides the snakebots, which can carry explosives for military use or slither into collapsed buildings with a camera to search for survivors, there are tunnel-mapping robots that travel in pairs to correct each other's errors, and robots that use magnetic wheels for inspecting ships below the waterline, or adhesive treads for scaling vertical walls like a snail.

In contrast to versatile robot prototypes like Boston Dynamics' "Big Dog," your robots are each designed to solve a specific mobility problem using simple solutions. Do you have a "low-tech" philosophy?

Not really -- in fact, some of the ways we design and manufacture our components, such as 3-D printing, are very high-tech. But we do work with a bottom-up approach. We are in the stage that each robot has a specific task, and we design something for that task. This is the art of science, to take a complex task and break it into small pieces that are easier to handle, then combine them together. Simple is good in general. The greatest inventions are the simplest ones -- like the wheel, for instance.

What problem were you trying to solve with the snakelike robots?

Robots that move like snakes are not new; what I added is the idea of advancing the snake by creating "rolling contact" with the environment. Rolling contact is just what a wheel does: making contact with the environment in a continuous way. In the snake robot, rolling contact is maintained by a traveling wave through the links on the body. I call it a "deformable wheel," because each link rolls on the ground, and when the contact gets to the end of the link, the next link comes and continues the rolling.

Rolling contact is useful for two reasons: one, for measuring how far the robot advances -- you can obtain odometry information just like you can from a wheel. The traveling wave lets us measure the angle of each link in the robot with respect to the environment, so we can estimate how far it crawls. In the future, we can put tilt sensors and accelerometers on each link to get even more accurate measurements. The second reason is for climbing -- you want contact to be continuous in order to maintain contact force with the environment, so the robot can hold itself up.

The "2-D" snake can only move forwards and backwards, because it only uses one traveling wave in its links, but it can also climb between two rigid surfaces. In the "3-D" snake, two perpendicular waves -- one horizontal, one vertical -- travel through the links, and the superimposition creates a screwlike motion. It's more versatile, and can be steered left or right by changing the speed and phase difference between the waves. It should be able to climb as well, but we haven't tested that yet.

What is the principle behind the tunnel-mapping robots, which work in pairs?

Basically it's error correction. There is a unit [in the IDF] that finds tunnels between Gaza and Israel, and they asked us to design a unit that could be driven into these tunnels to map them safely. Obviously there's no GPS down there, so you need to rely on odometry to do the mapping. But with one robot, if there is any slippage during rotating or turning, then you introduce error into the angle of the robot, and after a certain distance you get a very big error in localization.

With two robots, you can gain additional information about the relative configuration of the pair, in addition to the odometry. The arm that connects them has six passive joints that record the relative positional information between the two, and this redundant data allows for error correction when slippage occurs. The arm can also transfer force between the two robots: one can push or pull the other to help it overcome obstacles, which is particularly useful in confined spaces like tunnels.

Your two other prototypes were designed to attach to specific surfaces while moving. What was your approach for each problem?

The first was brought to me by two students who are both officers in the navy, who wished they had a way to assess damage to the hulls of ships just below the surface without sending a diver out. We needed a robot that could attach to metal structures, so placing magnets on the robot's wheels was the simplest and easiest solution. The problem was that there are usually obstacles that it has to travel over, like rivets and seams. Therefore, we mounted all the magnets on springs, so they could adjust to the terrain.

The second problem was inspired by an incident about twenty years ago when a soldier was kidnapped and held on the second story of a building. Having a robot that could quietly scale the wall outside and survey the interior would be very useful. Suction is often not appropriate, because the wall surface is rough or unsealed, so we looked at the snail, which can climb on almost any surface simply by secreting an adhesive. We discovered that a hot glue gun mounted over each tread of a robot worked quite well for imitating this, and it was strong enough to hold much more than the robot's weight.

What are your plans for future research efforts?

I'd like to study more dynamic mobility processes. All of these prototypes rely on what we called quasi-static motion: the robot is stable at all times. And I think the future would be in investigating processes that are more dynamic -- that can use inertia, jumping, or even falling. After all, when we're walking, we actually fall forward. So I'd like to investigate these applications for dynamic locomotion.
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:32 AM   #5
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Drones Hone In On Taliban Targets Marked With Tiny Microchips

Latest military news: Minuscule beacons tell pilotless aircraft where to bomb.
By Dan Smith Posted 02.06.2009 at 8:21 am

Predator Drone

New information is coming to light about how the US military has been directing their bombing attacks by unmanned drone aircrafts via small microchip beacons. These microchips, planted by hand by spies around the homes or meeting places of Al-Qaeda agents, send signals identifying targets for destruction, much like laser designators for smart bombs. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009...liban-pakistan

One of the most difficult aspects in the war being conducted in Pakistan is obtaining accurate, real-time intelligence, accessing the region, and ultimately attacking the threat. However, in the remote and mountainous regions of Waziristan and the Swat Valley in Pakistan, populated by factious tribes that may or may not be housing Al-Qaeda operatives, this has proven difficult. Over the past several years the US military has launched many missile attacks by the drone aircrafts, which have solved the problem of the access and the attack. The microchips, called “parthai” by locals, meaning “metal device” in Pashto, have solved the issue of intelligence. The chips are placed by local tribesmen, who are paid by the CIA and who have a more intimate knowledge of the community and targets.

The drone program has been championed by the military as a cheap option that doesn’t directly threaten troops in the region. However, the bombings have been criticized for causing large amounts of collateral damage. These chips could be an attempt to focus their attacks to prevent civilian casualties by pinpointing their attacks as much as possible.

The chips have certainly caused a commotion in the region. Locals are reportedly trying to avoid Taliban fighters so as not to be near future attacks. The Taliban has also started cracking down on people they feel may be chip-carrying spies. A video released by the Taliban in April shows the killing of a man who claims to have been paid by the CIA for planting a chip. The video may be in response to the fact that the drones have supposedly claimed the lives of nine of the top twenty Al-Qaeda leaders in the past 18 months.
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:34 AM   #6
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Latest Military News: Meet Ember, the Littlest Warbot

iRobot's lovable fighting machine can be toted in your pocket. Latest military news from Popular Science.
By Jeremy Hsu Posted 30.05.2009 at 4:18 am


iRobot's multipurpose PackBot has helped lead the way among war-bots, disabling improvised explosives and carrying out recon missions for snipers. But soon paperback-sized robots such as the Ember prototype could join their larger cousins on the battlefield.

Ember's strength rests with numbers and disposability -- one soldier could theoretically carry around several of the bots and place them to create a networked mobile swarm. Each robot might carry several radios and sensors that make up a small part of the larger wireless network envisioned in the Army's now-gutted Future Combat Systems. http://www.popsci.com/military-aviat...uture-military

The one-pound robot gets around easily enough for its size. Twin flipper mechanisms allow the robot to climb obstacles and even right itself after awkward falls. Future versions are slated to pack enough artificial intelligence to detect and maneuver around obstacles in cluttered urban environments.

Soldiers need not treat Ember gently, either. Dropping or throwing the tiny bot works just fine -- apparently toughness is an inherited trait in the iRobot family, if PackBot has anything to say about it on Facebook.

"I like to think of myself as a rugged, shockproof, waterproof part of the team," PackBot confides on its personal page. Since early this year, the robot has joined college students and narcissists alike in polishing its online credentials and sharing family photos of Ember. It's kind of charming, even if the choice of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" under favorite movies seems a bit random for a robot.

The trend toward smaller robots doesn't completely shunt aside the bigger unmanned ground vehicles, such as the tank-like Ripsaw that won one of PopSci's "Inventions of the Year." Large and small bots alike may simply play their own roles to ensure unmanned domination of the battlefield; as PackBot brags on Facebook, "I came, I saw, I conquered."

Ember: courtesy iRobot
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:38 AM   #7
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Speed Bump Sensors Keep Hummers Rolling

Humvees could get maintenance checkups to go
By Jeremy Hsu Posted 18.04.2009 at 3:02 am

Douglas Adams and Tiffany DiPetta, Purdue University Purdue News Service photo/Andrew Hancock

Wear and tear on Humvees need not slow down the U.S. Army – soldiers could soon drive over speed bump-like diagnostic cleats to determine the conditions their vehicles are in.

Embedded sensors could detect suspension or tire problems by comparing vibration signatures with the baseline signature of a healthy vehicle. Researchers used triaxial accelerometers to gauge tire forces in a cleat prototype.

"The cleat is a quick first check to determine what's mechanically wrong with a vehicle before wasting time hunting for potentially simple problems," said Joseph Gothamy, who leads the reliability and durability simulation team at Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, in Warren, Michigan. http://www.popsci.com/scitech/articl...cutes-got-edge

The sensor speed bump costs roughly $1,500 and could stave off the more expensive option of rigging all current vehicles with sensors. It also provides an alternative to the current maintenance schedules that are based on reliability estimates for Humvees. Such estimates may not hold up when Humvees are subjected to different tasks and environments, so the sensor speed bump would potentially lead to more accurate and tailored vehicle maintenance procedures.. http://www.popsci.com/scitech/articl...shoot-not-kill

"Some vehicles may be used at checkpoints while others may be hauling supplies hundreds of miles," Gothamy said. "Even if the same vehicle variant is used, they are on very different missions, and trying to use the same regular maintenance schedule for both isn't always efficient or effective." http://www.popsci.com/scitech/articl...mvee-vs-h2-sut

Researchers at Purdue University tested the system using Humvees and computer simulations. They found that the sensors could pick up on simulated coil spring damage in the Humvee's front suspension, even at different tire pressures.

According to Douglas Adams, a mechanical engineer at Purdue University, the system could eventually alert maintenance personnel to everything from deflated tires to shock absorber problems.

For now, the main challenge lies in acquiring enough data to build up a library of vibration signatures that can troubleshoot various problems under different conditions. The U.S. Army plans to do further testing at various Army depots, and will conduct a large survey of vehicles returning from overseas deployment – because even Army tough can use a checkup every now and then. http://www.popsci.com/cars/article/2...adless-humvees
"Let's say one of the tires is severely under pressure," Adams said. "The cleat tells you to turn around and fill up that tire because you are about to embark on a 10-hour mission with this vehicle."
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:41 AM   #8
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Robots That Hunt in Packs

The Department of Defense wants your designs for a collaborative robotic team
By John Brandon Posted 06.11.2008 at 3:09 am

Gladiator Tactical Unmanned Ground Vehicle

The Department of Defense has put out a call: design a pack of robots. A so-called Multi-Robot Pursuit System would be used to "search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject." Each robot has to weigh 100 kilograms or less, act autonomously (with a human squad leader), negotiate obstacles, and provide immediate feedback. The robots would report back to a human operator, and defer to that human when the robot AI determines that a "difficult decision" is required.

The first phase of development is to create the sensors for detecting humans and to conduct feasibility experiments. Then comes the building of a prototype with fully functional sensors. At that point, a third phase would try to establish whether a pack of such robots -- about three to five in number -- could realistically be used for missions involving, according to the proposal, "search and rescue, fire-fighting, reconnaissance, and automated biological, chemical, and radiation sensing with mobile platforms."

Part of the latter phase would involve the robots moving through an obstacle course and making search-and-rescue decisions, maintaining awareness of and line-of-site with a subject. Limited information is available about the program's mandate, but the proposal's topic number indicates that it is a U.S. Army project, from which one could infer that the robots would be used in military missions. http://www.dodsbir.net/SITIS/display...Bookmark=34565

Robot drones are currently used as unmanned aircraft to provide early warning in combat. In the past, military officials have noted that robots would likely not be used to replace soldiers on the battlefield because of the ethical dilemmas involved.
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:43 AM   #9
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Developing Lasers for the Battlefield

They're not just for the dancefloor any more. Latest military news...
By John Brandon Posted 08.10.2008 at 8:12 am

Laser Show Photo by gabyu (CC Licensed) http://flickr.com/photos/gabyu/

Laser weaponry is a hot topic lately (excuse the pun), especially for those who question the ethics of using them on the battlefield. In late September, the Senate approved a Defense Authorization Bill that would provide new funding for military laser weapons.

So called "directed-energy weapons" use a beam of coherent light to disable attacking troops. According to the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which presidential hopeful John McCain is a member, laser weapons provide a tactical advantage primarily because of their accuracy. In the future, these weapons could be used during combat as a defensive measure, but it's still unclear whether the Department of Defense will decide to develop them as offensive weapons.

A "shoot-down" test from a 747 is planned for the end of 2009. If the test shows that laser weaponry has potential, an additional $30 million in funding will be allocated to develop a missile defense program.

Today, low-power laser weapons are being used in Iraq to "incapacitate" enemies or "deter" vehicles from approaching checkpoints. (The Department of Defense did not immediately return our requests for information about the new funding for laser weaponry.) Similar to a Taser weapon, low-power lasers cause disorientation or temporary blindness.

In August, Boeing announced that the U.S. Army had awarded the company a $36-million-dollar contract to develop a high-powered laser weapon. The Geneva Convention specifically prohibits the use of lasers in combat, but the truck-mounted weapon under development -- called a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck -- would be used as a defensive measure, capable of shooting down rockets, artillery shells, and mortar rounds. The vehicle will use a solid-state laser system (solid-state lasers are also used in computer semiconductors), which is more efficient and accurate than standard laser weapons. http://www.boeing.com/news/releases/...80819a_nr.html

Lasers are currently used on the battlefield for targeting and tagging enemy units. For example, the LDART (Laser Detection and Reciprocal Targeting) system can read whether a vehicle has been "painted" by a laser, and warn troops of impending threats. Lasers are also used for missile guidance and to determine the range of objects on the battlefield as a guide in troop advancement.

[Via the Washington Post] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...102432_pf.html
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:47 AM   #10
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The Army’s Telepathic Ray Gun

A newly declassified report details the Defense Department's mind-control weapons concepts
By Megan Miller Posted 22.03.2008 at 3:17 am

What we imagine the telepathic ray would look like Erin Silversmith

The U.S. Defense department has tested some spooky weapons, but those involving mind control and telepathic attack may be near the top of the list. A newly declassified 1998 document released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (download the pdf here http://www.popsci.com/files/microwave.pdf ), describes potential weapons for crowd control, such as a microwave gun that could beam words directly into people’s ears, and an electromagnetic pulse that causes epilepsy-like seizures.

The report also discusses a weapon that can heat a victim's body internally, producing an artificial fever. It is unknown whether the fever-inducing technology was actually tested, but the report notes that the equipment needed "is available today" and that the resulting fever would keep a victim incapacitated for "any desired period consistent with safety."

In an interview with New Scientist, Steve Wright, a UK security expert at Leeds Metropolitan University, warned that such technologies could be used for torture. "The epileptic seizure-inducing device is grossly irresponsible and should never be fielded," He said. "We know from similar artificially-induced fits that the victim subsequently remains 'potentiated' and may spontaneously suffer epileptic fits again after the initial attack." http://technology.newscientist.com/c...ine-news_rss20
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:50 AM   #11
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Robots at War

Popular Science talks to the author of Wired for War: the Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century
By Val Wang Posted 08.04.2009 at 1:14 am

Soldier with PackBot courtesy iRobot

PackBots roam the streets of Iraq defusing bombs. Remote-controlled SWORDS robots shoot rifles and rocket launchers with deadly accuracy. Predator drones piloted by soldiers in Nevada drop missiles on Iraq and Afghanistan. The Wasp robot flies over neighborhoods full of insurgents, recording what's below with a camera as small as a peanut.

If this sounds like a futuristic science fiction story, it's not. As of today, over 12,000 robots are working in Iraq, up from zero five years ago.

The military is driving the cutting edge of the robotics industry, so forget about Isaac Asimov's Three Laws as laid out in his seminal science fiction book I, Robot: a robot may not injure a human being, a robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, a robot must protect its own existence. We're already living in a strange new world. http://wiredforwar.pwsinger.com/

P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, has written Wired for War, in which he's interviewed a motley crew of people involved with the robotics industry: CEOs of robotics companies, 19-year-old drone pilots, four-star generals, refusenik roboticists who won't build for the military, people in the Middle East on the other end of the bullets and missiles, and science fiction authors who consult for the Pentagon.

Robots do see better than humans, shoot straighter and faster than us, and never get tired, but is it only a matter of time until, as any reader of Western science fiction knows, the robot "wises up and then rises up," as Singer says?

I spoke to Singer about what he found out in his journey into the heart of the robotics industry, and what's to come.

How much did you know about robots before you started on this project?

I could claim I knew a lot in that I grew up playing with Star Wars action figures and sleeping in Battlestar Galactica bedsheets, but the reality is that I'm not an engineer, I'm a social scientist, so the chapter "Robotics for Dummies" was about how I was a dummy, learning everything I could about robotics so I could explain them to a layman, where the field is and where it's headed. There's a wide ignorance -- I mean that in the true meaning of the term, not the slur meaning -- about the exciting and fascinating and sometimes scary things going on with robotics today. It's seen as mere science fiction but it's not. And it's a lot further ahead than most people have a sense of.

Could you talk about the connection between science fiction and what's actually being designed?

It was startling how open people were about talking about science fiction and their use in the real world. The Marine colonel talking about, 'Oh, yeah, I got the idea for building that system from The Empire Strikes Back with my kids.' The people at the Air Force research lab talking about how, "Oh yes, we decided to call it the Phaser because we knew it was more likely to get funding if it had a sci-fi sounding name."

[Science Fiction Museum director] Donna Shirley says, "Science fiction isn't so much about how to build the bomb but what happens if." If you build the bomb you get Dr. Strangelove, and that's the part that interests me. That's really what the book is about. All of the dilemmas that come out of having science fiction come true, having science fiction play out on our modern battlefields.

I went to Human Rights Watch and was asking them about accountability coming out of drone strikes in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan and two of the senior leaders there get in an argument in front of me as to which legal system we should turn to to get the answers, to who do we hold accountable when the drone kills the wrong person, and one says, "the Geneva Convention," and the other says, "No, no, no, it's the Star Trek Prime Directive."

And it shows to me: one, the influence of science fiction in the oddest of places, but two, it also shows the challenges when you enter into this sci-fi-turned-real-world, where suddenly we're really grasping at straws because our current laws just haven't caught up yet.

There are a series of open questions right now: Where is the code of ethics in the robotics field? What gets built and what doesn't get built? Where's the answer to the question of who gets to use these technologies? Who doesn't get them? They're the kind of questions that you used to only talk about in science fiction conventions, but these are very real, live questions right now.

Global Hawk Drone: This spy drone can take off by itself, fly 3,000 miles, spend a day spying on an area the size of the state of Maine, fly back 3,000 miles, and then land itself. -- P.W. Singer courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

How have these robots changed the experience of war?

The very meaning of the term "going to war" has changed in our lifetime. Whether we were talking about the ancient Greeks going to war against Troy in the Iliad, to my grandfather's experience in World War II going to war against the Japanese in the Pacific, that phrase has meant the same thing over the last 5,000 years. It's meant going to a place where there was such danger that you might never return.

You have now the experience of, for example, that Predator drone pilot who appears in the book, who says, "you're 'going to war' for twelve hours, you're putting missiles on enemy targets, you're killing enemy combatants, and then you get back in your car and drive home and 20 minutes after being 'at war' you're sitting at the dinner table talking to your kids about their homework."

We're starting to see ripple effects on our own politics. As that former Secretary of Defense puts it in the book, "I like these systems because they save American lives but I also worry about more marketization of war, more 'shock and awe' talk, to defray discussion of the cost. People are more likely to support the use of force if they view it as costless." We may be taking those bars to war that we were already lowering and dropping them to the ground.

And what is it like for the Iraqis or the Afghanis on the receiving end of this technology?

The leading news editor of Lebanon [Rami Khouri], who was actually saying this [to me] while a drone was flying above him at the time, and he says, "It's just another sign of the cold-hearted, cruel Israelis and Americans who are also cowards because they send out machines to fight us. They don't want to fight us like real men. But they're afraid to fight, so we just have to kill a few of their soldiers to defeat them." That is just a graphic illustration of an absolute disconnect in the war of ideas between the message we think we're sending versus the message being received. In Pakistan, one of the most popular songs last year ["Chacha Wardi Lahnda Kyo Nahen" or "Uncle, Lose the Uniform, Why Don't You?"] talked about how Americans don't fight with honor and they just look at Pakistanis the way they look at insects. That ain't the kind of messaging you want to be sending out.

How much autonomy do you think robots should have? What direction are we going in versus what direction should we be going in?

Every time you ask about this issue of armed and autonomous robots, people always use the phraseology, "No, no, no. We'll always have man in the loop." The "loop" phraseology is like a mantra everyone has to chant. And yet, it's utter B.S.. We have systems right now that we're already granting massive amounts of autonomy to.

There's the example of the CRAM, the Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar, the little R2-D2-like system in Baghdad that automatically shoots down incoming rockets because they're coming in too quickly for humans to respond to. You've got an incoming rocket and the human can barely get to, "Oh, sh---" and it's too late. Yeah, man's in the loop, we turn it on and off, but we don't have the reaction time to decide what it shoots at and what it doesn't.

There's an incredible array of excuses we come up for giving the system more autonomy. It's everything from, 'Things are happening quickly in a war. We'll not allow it to shoot first but we'll give it shoot-back ability.' Or 'We'll design systems that don't shoot at people, they just can shoot at other weapon systems. They can't shoot at the people in the tank, they can shoot at tanks.'

Each one takes us further and further down the slippery slope that we say we'll never, ever cross. Guess what? We are directly researching armed, autonomous systems. The funniest illustration of that is the title of one of the Pentagon research projects on it, which is actually entitled, "Taking Man Out of the Loop."
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Old 16-07-2009, 08:56 AM   #12
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The Military's Mystery Machine

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP, has been called a missile-defense tool and a mind-control device. The truth is a bit less ominous
By Abe Streep Posted 19.06.2008 at 5:36 am

Northern Exposure: With HAARP, an antenna array located 200 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, scientists study the outer atmosphere by zapping it with radio waves generated by 3,600 kilowatts of electricity. Appropriately, it has a great view of the aurora borealis. U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
If the paranoid blogosphere is to be believed, every morning a group of plasma-physics grad students wakes up at a research facility in Gakona, Alaska, 200 miles north of Anchorage, and prepares for another day of playing God. It’s cold, dark as a mineshaft in winter, and the day’s work does little to cheer the mood. Depending on the unpredictable agendas of military scientists, this group of technicians must shoot radio waves into the upper reaches of our atmosphere to create missile shields, eviscerate enemy satellites, set off the occasional earthquake, or control the minds of millions of people.

Skywave Propogation: Radio waves travel in straight lines, but the Earth isn’t flat, so sending radio signals to the other side of the world is tricky. HAARP’s findings could lead to ways to extend the range of radio signals by creating irregularities in the ionosphere that would bounce signals across long distances. Paul Wootton

The truth is, though, that the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP—the 180-antenna array that became fully operational last year when the defense-systems contractor BAE finished installing transmitters—is nothing more sinister than a research station. And now, 15 years after construction on the station began, HAARP’s managers are seeing what the fully powered system can do; most recently, they’ve begun zapping the moon with the hope of determining the composition of its soil. “It’s up, it runs, it performs beautifully,” says Ed Kennedy, the former HAARP program manager for the Naval Research Lab. “HAARP is a great example of a project that from start to finish stayed on schedule and on budget.”

HAARP’s purpose is to study the ionosphere (the section of the atmosphere beginning about 50 miles up in which ultraviolet radiation temporarily strips atoms of their electrons), the magnetosphere (the region in space above the ionosphere where the Earth’s magnetic field affects the behavior of charged particles) and the Van Allen radiation belts (bands of highly charged particles contained in the magnetosphere beginning some 400 miles up). Scientists are interested in the ionosphere because of its ability to affect radio signals; the Van Allen belt, because the radiation there damages satellites, and a better understanding of it could lead to ways to make satellites last longer. “It’s an open plasma-physics laboratory,” says Dennis Papadopoulos, a physics professor at the University of Maryland who helped conceive the idea for HAARP with the Naval Research Lab more than 30 years ago. “You test ideas and scientific theories. Then, if something’s important to the Department of Defense, you apply it.”

Ionospheric Manipulation Made Easy: HAARP’s ionospheric research instrument comprises 180 aluminum antenna towers [1] on a 40-acre plot. Together the towers beam radio waves into the ionosphere, which begins about 50 miles up. There, sunlight temporarily strips gas molecules [2] of their electrons, creating charged particles [3]. Scientists tweak HAARP’s signal [4] to stimulate reactions in the lower ionosphere, causing phenomena such as radiating auroral currents, a.k.a. “virtual antennas,” which send extremely low-frequency waves back to Earth. The waves can reach deep into the ocean and could improve submarine communication. At night, the absence of sunlight causes the lowest layer of the ionosphere to temporarily disappear [5]. This allows HAARP to conduct experiments that could lead to better ways to use a process called skywave propagation. Paul Wootton
One application government scientists are particularly interested in is turning the lower ionosphere into a tool for broadcasting radio signals or bouncing them around the curvature of the Earth. By beaming a signal ranging from 2.8 to 10 megahertz into the ionosphere and then pulsing the signal, HAARP stimulates what’s called a “virtual antenna”—a radio interaction that causes the ionosphere to send a very low-frequency signal back down to Earth. The phenomenon could theoretically improve submarine communication. Because salty, conductive seawater absorbs high-frequency radio waves, submarines currently operate with wires that reach up into shallow depths to receive usable radio signals. Low-frequency signals like the ones HAARP generates in the ionosphere could allow subs to operate at much deeper depths. “It’s a real signal that comes from space as though there were an antenna up there,” says Paul Kossey, HAARP program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. “But there’s no wire doing it.”

Of course, a vocal minority of HAARP-watchers have their own ideas about the purpose of the $230-million, taxpayer-funded antenna array. For many years, HAARP’s most prominent critic was Bernard Eastlund, a plasma physicist who reportedly worked for the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) and, later, Advanced Power Technologies Incorporated, the company originally tasked with building HAARP. Eastlund, who some believe was dismissed from the company for his extreme ideas, claimed that HAARP was built with his patents—patents for technologies that could be used to modify weather and disable satellites.

Since Eastlund’s death last December, Nick Begich, son of a former Alaskan congressman and co-author of the 1995 book Angels Don’t Play This HAARP: Advances in Tesla Technology, has led the anti-HAARP crusade. “It’s not that I think it needs to be shut down,” Begich says. “It needs to be monitored more closely and scrutinized. The government hasn’t been up-front about the nature of these programs, and they’re utilizing the system to manipulate portions of the environment without full disclosure to the public.” He worries that HAARP may be capable of mind control because the waves it produces can exist at frequencies similar to those of human brain waves. Citing Eastlund’s patents, Begich also worries that the facility can alter weather. More extreme skeptics, like Jerry E. Smith, author of HAARP: The Ultimate Weapon of the Conspiracy, suspect that HAARP was rushed into completion after the 2005 hurricane season, which included Katrina, to keep the storms from making landfall. Others say it was responsible for the destruction of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003.

Ask a HAARP scientist about allegations like this, and he’ll either laugh or lose his temper. “This is completely uninformed,” says Umran Inan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University whose research group works with HAARP. “There’s absolutely nothing we can do to disturb the Earth’s [weather] systems. Even though the power HAARP radiates is very large, it’s minuscule compared with the power of a lightning flash—and there are 50 to 100 lightning flashes every second. HAARP’s intensity is very small.”

“You hear these people talking about mind control, and it’s just not serious,” Papadopoulos says. So we don’t need tinfoil hats to prevent evil government scientists from controlling our every thought? “We have difficulty measuring the signal. We do experiments all the time up there, and we don’t wear hats.”

Conspiracy or not? Launch our gallery here to see the great debunking. http://www.popsci.com/military-aviat...pon-conspiracy

Abe Streep is an associate editor at Outside magazine.
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Old 16-07-2009, 09:13 AM   #13
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The Top-Secret Warplanes of Area 51

Stealth jets? Hypersonic bombers? What's really being developed at the military's most famous classified base?
By Bill Sweetman Posted 01.10.2006 at 5:00 pm

by DigitalGlobe: Satellite imagery taken on January 17, 2006, of Area 51 reveals little. Base security personnel know when satellites are passing overhead, and test aircraft remain indoors at those times. Personnel work in windowless offices and are locked inside when anything other than their own project is outdoors. DigitalGlobe
View Photo Gallery http://www.popsci.com.au/military-av...ecrets-area-51

For a closer look at the exotic aircraft the Air Force might be cooking up at Area 51, launch the photo gallery. http://www.popsci.com.au/node/8820

On a trip to las vegas in 2004, observing from my east-facing hotel room in the pyramidal Luxor Hotel at daybreak, I watched a fleet of six unmarked 737s make commuter flights to nowhere. These aircraft depart every weekday morning from a tidy, anonymous terminal on the western side of McCarran International Airport. A long line of cars pours into a 1,600-spot parking lot as the jets pull away from the terminal, taxi to the runways, and head out into the desert sky. At the end of the day, the shuttle flights return and the lot empties. The passengers go home and tell their families nothing about what happened at work that day.

Cut to April 4 this year. San Diego is hit by a rumbling shock that isn´t an earthquake. It is ruled out by the media as a sonic boom after military operators claim it is not one of their aircraft. San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Alex Roth does some digging and comes up with six puzzlingly similar incidents around the country since 2003.

Fast-forward to July, at the Farnborough International Airshow in southeastern England. Frank Cappuccio, the avuncular vice president of Lockheed Martin´s secretive Skunk Works division, opens a press conference by introducing what he calls a promotional video, â€something to show the kids and families about what we do.†Two minutes into the show, a gray, cockpit-less airplane that nobody has seen before-it looks like a B-2 bomber´s chick-soars over a backdrop of stony, barren hills and mountains.

All these events are linked. They are the visible signs of an invisible, parallel world within the universe of aerospace and defense: the classified, or â€black,†world of secret military programs. Those unmarked 737s were ferrying employees to the flight-test center near Groom Lake, Nevada, known to the public as Area 51. The gray airplane is Polecat, a next-generation stealth unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-Cappuccio´s video was his sly way of unveiling the program. Those earthquakes? Quite possibly sonic booms from a long-suspected hypersonic attack vehicle, a sleek aircraft that has consumed the imaginations of black-project enthusiasts and military analysts, including me, for two decades. Though seemingly dormant in recent years, the program appears to be on the move again, and with a renewed vigor that has me feeling, somewhat unsettlingly, a bit like the aerospace industry´s own Ahab.

The black airplane world has, without question, produced the most significant advances in aviation technology. In the 1950s, it spawned the U-2 spyplane, which flew higher and farther than anyone had thought possible. It gave birth a decade later to the SR-71 Blackbird, the exotic, revered speed king. It also produced the slow but stealthy, origami-like F-117 fighter.

But for aerospace sleuths, there´s been little activity recently in the form of declassified vehicles that might hint at current efforts. (Classified programs can be unveiled to aid in broad combat deployment or when the technology appears in other programs.) The F-117 came out of the black world during the first Iraq war 15 years ago, and only three aircraft have been introduced since. One was Polecat. Another was Northrop Grumman´s ungainly reconnaissance aircraft Tacit Blue, nicknamed â€the Whale.†The third was Boeing´s Bird of Prey, which tested visual stealth strategies, including shaping that minimizes shadows and contrast and, rumor has it, body illumination that allows it to blend into its background.

This dearth of unveiled prototypes does not mean, however, that the black-aircraft community is dormant. In fact, all signs point to steadily increasing activity. Google Earth reveals a newly constructed additional runway and multiple new hangars and buildings at the base. The usual vague, untraceable allocations in congressional budgets that often signal classified programs are on the rise, and modern technological innovations are now enabling aircraft designs that might have floundered in the black world for years. Further, there are significant gaps in the military´s known aviation arsenal-gaps that the Pentagon can reasonably be assumed to be actively, if quietly, trying to fill.

The need for such secrecy is simple: It is essential to preserving technological surprise. The Pentagon wishes to prevent enemies from developing strategies to counter the technology. The challenge is to figure out what precisely is happening-without betraying national security-because the bigger the black world gets, the better it conceals its activities. What follows is inescapably an educated guess, arrived at by analysis of the available evidence, at the tantalizing designs being cooked up on the sly at Area 51, including a radical special-forces transport, a stealthy UAV, an agile new bomber, and my own white whale-the mythical, hypersonic dragster and presumed source of those faux earthquakes: Aurora.

Delivering Special Forces Behind Enemy Lines

One of the best pointers to a secret program is an obvious gap in the â€white world†force, and one of these gaps is a stealthy, short-runway transport airplane. The U.S. Air Force´s special
operations community has talked for many years about stealthy transports that could take off and land vertically or on a few hundred feet of level ground (a soccer field is the classic example).

The new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor transport is a partial answer to that problem, but the military would really like something faster, so it can fly farther into and out of enemy territory, and the Osprey´s big rotors quickly betray it to radar. So far, there is no sign of unclassified, white-world money developing such a vehicle. In 1992, however, Skunk Works engineers filed a patent application for such an aircraft. (New aircraft can take years to develop. A 14-year-old patent filing could easily represent a current program.)

Tailless, with a blended wing and body, the aircraft is powered by six jet engines driving rotor-like lifting fans ensconced in wide, round bays in the wings. For takeoff and landing, doors and Venetian-blind vanes cascade open, and the fans lift the airplane vertically. While cruising, the engines drive
smaller, forward-thrusting fans. Why six engines? The engines and fans are interconnected by an elaborate system of cross-shafts so that any engine can deliver power to either side of the airplane. With six engines, the airplane can complete a mission if one fails.

Is something like that out there today? The job of a vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft still needs doing, perhaps now more than ever before, and, barring antigravity solutions from the friendly aliens at Area 51, an aircraft like this is one of the few ways to get it done. Technologically, it is probably benefiting from the innovations behind the Osprey´s power-sharing engines-in that aircraft, if one engine fails, the second still drives both propellers-and the development of the shaft-driven vertical-lift fan in the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF.

New UAVs: Unmanned, Invisible, Unlimited

Although manned fighter jets and bombers have long dominated classified programs, unmanned vehicles are rising as quickly in the black as in the white world, particularly because the Air Force lacks any kind of stealth-reconnaissance aircraft. It plans to replace the U-2 spyplane with the Global Hawk UAV, but even though the Global Hawk has the advantage of being robotic-that is, capable of longer flights and expendable, since there´s no human on board-it doesn´t fly as high and can´t carry the same hefty high-performance cameras as the U-2. Nor does it carry a jammer to spoof enemy missiles.

Polecat, just outed from the black world, is part of the answer. Lockheed Martin representatives talk about an operational version with U-2-like altitude and payload, along with technology to avoid visual detection (including features seen on the Bird of Prey) and, perhaps, an automated system that detects a contrail behind the airplane and tells the flight-control system to change altitude.

Other stealthy UAVs have probably been tested-among them, possibly, armed UAVs. It is known, for example, that engine maker Williams International delivered the first dozen or so of its new FJ33 small jet engines to the U.S. government four or five years ago, but no known project uses that engine. A recent report in Jane´s International Defence Review described another,
larger vehicle that uses different engines from Polecat, apparently recycled from a 1960s UAV program. The article speculated that the engines are probably General Electric J97s, built for a UAV called Compass Arrow.

Why reuse old jet engines? There is only one good reason. The J97 was unusual in that it was designed to operate at up to 80,000 feet, an altitude at which most jet engines cough, stall, and quit. The Air Force does not send the stealthy B-2 and F-117 over hostile territory in daylight, because those planes could be easily spotted. But at 80,000 feet, six miles above a fighter´s cruising altitude, the sky is almost as black as night, and a UAV could survive at high noon. I suspect that both Polecat and the second, larger stealth UAV are currently undergoing high-altitude flight-testing at Area 51.

Some UAV projects may be much slower than even the stealth birds. A Boeing patent filed in 2004 describes a vehicle that is a cross between an airship and an airplane-employing both buoyant lift from helium gas and wing lift generated by forward speed, and capitalizing on recent developments in on-board solar power generation and autonomous flight control.

What would be the advantage of such a vehicle? For one thing, it would have long flight endurance, measured in days or weeks rather than hours. For another, airships can easily be made to accommodate very large and sensitive antennas. If you want to locate weak or sporadic radio transmissions-such as cellphones or scattered satellite phones used by insurgent groups-the airship is an ideal platform.

Revived Avenger Offers Stealthy Ground Attacks

Another surprising gap in U.S. capabilities is the lack of an all-weather, stealthy ground-attack aircraft. The Joint Strike Fighter is supposed to do that, but not until 2014. The new F-22 Raptor, mostly an air-to-air fighter, will be able to do some of it eventually, but that jet carries a relatively modest 2,000-pound bomb load. The F-117 Stealth fighter can be flown only in clear nighttime weather-it has no radar to bomb accurately through clouds, and its black coating easily betrays it to ground spotters.

Fellow black-project sleuth Jeffrey Richelson, author of the 2001 book The Wizards of Langley and one of the leading historians of U.S. intelligence efforts, guessed in a recent conversation that a behind-the-scenes tour of Groom Lake might reveal a revived program to plug that gap sooner than 2014, when the JSF flies.

A hint about possible all-weather attack vehicles now in testing-ones available sooner than 2014 and capable of carrying significant bomb loads-could reside, aerospace historian Peter Merlin pointed out, in a test pilot´s unclassified biography. Daniel Vanderhorst, who flew Northrop´s Whale and six other secret aircraft in a 20-year career, evidently â€tested modified landing gear and conducted initial tests of internal weapons bays and weapon separation tests.†What´s unusual about this is that most prototypes are simple aircraft without weapon bays, which suggests that this airplane was closer to an operational type. Specifically, I´m guessing, it could be an extension of the heavy-payload, all-weather attack jet
A-12 Avenger II, which thenâ€Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney canceled in 1991 because it was overbudget and not meeting its technological goals.

The flying-wing, carrier-based stealth-strike airplane was being developed under a tightly classified but not-quite-black program. The jet was only 11 months from first flight, and nobody has ever disclosed what happened to the partly built prototypes. If one of them had been completed and tested in a revived black program, most likely in the early 1990s, it could have pointed the way toward the F-117 replacement that Richelson suspects is flying now. Unlike the other stealth aircraft, an operational A-12 descendant would combine stealth ground-attack capability with the ability to shoot back at enemy fighters, packing a pair of anti-radar missiles and two AIM-120 air-to-air missiles.

Providing On-Demand Worldwide Attack

Lastly, there´s Aurora. The name itself is mysterious, evoking something you may or may not have seen. This code name leaked out of an unclassified budget document back in 1985. Such a vehicle-a ramjet-powered reconaissance and strike aircraft capable of flying at least five times the speed of sound and deploying anywhere in the world in a matter of hours-has been high on the government´s wish list. Aurora is certainly possible. The basic propulsion unit, the ramjet, is no more than a tapered tube with a fuel injector and burner in the middle and a thrust nozzle at the end. Basic ramjet-powered missiles have topped Mach 6. A wealth of aerodynamic data and test flights suggest that a wedge-shaped aircraft would work at these speeds.

I first heard about this kind of program in the mid-1980s, and the first public hint of the project popped up
in 1988, when the New York Times reported that the Air Force was developing a spyplane capable of better than Mach 5-nearly twice as fast as the
SR-71, then the world´s fastest airplane.

Two years later, the Blackbird was retired. In June 1991, the first in a series of unexplained shock waves rolled across the Los Angeles basin, rattling doors and windows and making people think of earthquakes. But they were not earthquakes, and the military adamantly denied that any of its vehicles caused the booms. In May of this year, I consulted with Dom Maglieri, an ex-NASA sonic-boom expert who has played a key role in the development of low-sonic-boom aircraft. We studied 15-year-old seismograph data from the California Institute of Technology, whose uniquely sensitive sensors could actually track the booms. â€The data showed something at 90,000 feet, Mach 4 to Mach 5,†Maglieri says now. The booms did not look like refracted, â€over the top†booms, as other reports had indicated-booms from aircraft miles away that had traveled up through the atmosphere and bent down toward Los Angeles. The booms looked like direct overflights by a supersonic
airplane that no one admitted to owning. â€The signatures are awfully different,†Maglieri says.

Shortly after the first set of waves appeared, Chris Gibson, an
oil engineer and well-known aircraft-recognition expert, contacted me. In August 1989, Gibson said, he had been working on a North Sea rig when a colleague called him outside to see a formation of airplanes overhead. Clearly silhouetted against the sky were two F-111 bombers, a
KC-135 tanker and-in refueling position behind the tanker-an unidentifiable delta-shaped airplane, about 90 feet long, a near-perfect match for unclassified studies of high-supersonic cruise airplanes.

This evidence helps establish
the program´s initial existence. My investigations continue to turn up evidence that suggests current activity. For example, having spent years sifting through military budgets, tracking untraceable dollars and code names, I learned how to sort out where money was going. This year, when I looked at the Air Force operations budget in detail, I found a $9-billion black hole that seems a perfect fit for a project like Aurora.

Over the years, I´ve learned that few people investigate budget holes seriously. Analysts such as Steven Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington, D.C.â€based think tank that pushes innovation in defense, doubt that Congress even knows what´s going on. â€A fair amount of classified spending goes through in supplemental requests,†he told me. â€It´s seen as must-pass legislation, and people don´t look at it closely.†This $9-billion gap and the most recent booms felt in San Diego and elsewhere are the most compelling evidence for the program´s resurgence. (We can´t analyze the new booms because seismic sensors of the same type were not present.)

But if Aurora has been active for years, why would it be surging forward now? The main hold-up has probably been fuel. The way to make a hypersonic cruiser work is to use circulating fuel to soak up the engine´s heat, but conventional jet fuel can´t absorb enough heat to do the job. In the 1980s, Aurora would have been designed to use fuels such as hydrogen or methane, which are gaseous at normal temperatures and had to be supercooled and densified to fuel the aircraft. Although that strategy is possible, it´s not operationally easy, and complicated refueling would be counterproductive for a jet intended to provide prompt overflight when the military needed it. Better fuels and engine technologies exist now.

The question, finally, is does Aurora exist? Years of pursuit have led me to believe that, yes, Aurora is most likely in active development, spurred on by recent advances that have allowed technology to catch up with the ambition that launched the program a generation ago.

Bill Sweetman is a PopSci contributing editor and author of more than 30 books on aerospace technology.
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Old 16-07-2009, 10:42 AM   #14
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Army's Most High-Tech Infantry Unit Set to Touch Down in Afghanistan
By Adrian Covert Posted 30.06.2009 at 9:12 am

Land Warrior Wearable Military Tech Peter Haley / The News Tribune

Each equipped with $48,000 worth of GPS components, electronic maps, and wearable computers, troops of the Army's 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division are heading to Afghanistan as part of the resurrected Land Warrior program. The Army is hoping the revised, eight-pound set of gear will be more beneficial than when the $500 million program was canceled in 2006.

As the latest futuristic military program to be made real, Land Warrior gear will allow troops to identify comrades and enemies on the battlefield, receive updated objectives, locate buildings and find the nearest exit--all through a head-mounted eyepiece.

This is the long-awaited realization of the Army's 15 year plus program to help out troops who were previously buying their own walkie-talkies and GPS units to stay in contact with their team.

The problem is, not everyone finds it helpful.

Troops say the technology is more helpful in urban areas such as Iraq, where (presumably), it's easier to become separated from the pack. But in rural Afghanistan, some troops feel carrying the extra 8 pounds around just isn't worth it. I guess Land Warrior's value will be assessed soon enough.


Networked eyes on the battlefield

SCOTT FONTAINE; The News Tribune
Published: 06/22/09 12:05 am | Updated: 06/22/09 7:01 am
Staff Sgt. Mark Gravsky of the 4-23 Infantry Regiment of the 5th Stryker Brigade shows his Land Warrior display as he and Pvt. 2nd Class Joseph Collazo take part in training Thursday in Regensberg, a mock village at Fort Lewis.

The infantry company approached unseen through the thick of the forest. Inside one building in the mock village on Fort Lewis sat the target of the day’s raid. Ten other men sporting Taliban-style robes and assault rifles roamed the streets.

Before the assault, the 120 Stryker Brigade soldiers fanned out across the village perimeter. Snipers set up rifles and tuned scopes. Soldiers carrying Squad Automatic Weapons prepared to lay suppressive fire.

With the sudden crackle of gunfire, the raid began. Soldiers from 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division stormed in and cleared each building, using blank ammunition and role players. The exercise was one of countless such operations at Fort Lewis.

But there was one major difference: A handful of soldiers were tracking their troops’ location through the Land Warrior System, from the mission’s planning stages to its finish.

Land Warrior is real-time network the Army believes should make missions in Iraq and Afghanistan quicker, more efficient and less prone to accidents.

An earlier version was field-tested by a single Fort Lewis Stryker battalion in Iraq. Now it moves to the big stage – an entire brigade, in a different war-torn country.

“I used it on every mission we went on, and frankly, it was one of the best pieces of equipment we had over there,” said Staff Sgt. Dennis Davis, who used Land Warrior during his 2007 Iraq deployment with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

“It helps with situational awareness on the battlefield,” Davis said. “I can’t imagine doing a mission now without the luxury of having it.”

The system allows users to see the locations of fellow soldiers and track their motion, among other features.

Each pack weighs about eight pounds and features a rotating eyepiece, a handheld controller and a backpack with a computer, radio and geospatial-locating equipment.

It syncs up with computers inside Stryker vehicles and with standalone laptops away from the battlefield.

The soldiers of 5th Brigade begin deploying to southern Afghanistan this month and should see less urban combat than previous Stryker deployments to Iraq. But each unit in the brigade will receive Land Warrior. Team leaders, squad leaders, platoon leaders, platoon sergeants and higher will all be equipped with the system.

The two Fort Lewis Stryker brigades deploying later this year to Iraq have requested the system but are unlikely to receive it before they leave, said John Geddes, the Land Warrior trail boss at Fort Lewis.

The system – which includes the computer subsystem, batteries, hardware-encrypted radios, the eyepiece, controller, laptop and other hardware – costs $48,000 per soldier.

The 5th Brigade is taking 895 systems to Afghanistan.

When a soldier looks in his eyepiece, he sees an aerial map of the battlefield – either a drawn map or a satellite image – and the location of the troops. Commanders can program coordinates and routes before each mission so the troops know where they are and where to go. This can be particularly useful in unfamiliar urban terrain.

The ability to pinpoint locations of individual troops and text message via a keyboard on the controller should cut down on radio chatter. That means less time communicating to set up a mission and, leaders say, less chance of friendly fire accidents.

If a soldier is hurt, he can press a button that calls for a medic.

Land Warrior allows a user to click on an icon on the map and get instant information about who that person is and where they’ve been. Others who are away from the battlefield – such as in a vehicle or a unit’s tactical operations center – can follow the information in real-time.

But Land Warrior is specifically designed to help troops on the ground work more efficiently, said Lt. Col. Burton Shields, commander of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.

“It allows you to operate faster,” Shields said. “You don’t have to stop to radio in reports. You don’t stop to do map checks. It allows you to be more decentralized.

“You can spread out more because you know where folks are, and you don’t have to maintain as tight of control,” he said. “It prevents fratricide because you know where everyone is.”

The system won true believers among 4th Stryker Brigade on its Iraq tour two years ago. The soldiers of 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment were assigned to Diyala province as part of the troop surge and fought a raging insurgency.

Davis was a weapons squad leader on that deployment and is now preparing to return to Iraq this fall with the same battalion. He said he and others weren’t sold on Land Warrior during their pre-deployment training in 2007.

“But as soon as we got in Iraq, I fell in love with that system,” the 28-year-old Tacoma resident said. “We’d jump off the helicopter, and within seconds we knew exactly where we were and exactly where we the target was. You don’t really need to communicate through the radio to find out where others are or pull a piece of paper out of your pocket to find out where you need to go.”

There are limitations. The system operates on a peer-to-peer basis, turning each radio into a relay, but it also works on a line-of-sight basis, so soldiers inside buildings or other structures can drop off the grid.

The terrain of Afghanistan – known for forbidding mountains and steep valleys – could interfere with that as well.

Some 5th Brigade soldiers have questioned the effectiveness of its use in Afghanistan. The terrain is punishing, and the extra eight pounds will make climbing in the thin mountain air even tougher.

And outside the cities, there could be far fewer scripted missions in which soldiers conduct flash raids inside buildings.

“I definitely see the application in Iraq, in an urban environment,” said Capt. Edward Graham, a company commander with 5th Brigade who has deployed to both countries. “But when you’re at 9,000 feet, sometimes you have to decide what’s appropriate.”

Lt. Adam Smith, a platoon leader with 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, said the system was a bit off on the troops’ exact locations during Thursday’s mock-village exercise.

Smith, a 26-year-old Colorado resident, wasn’t totally sold on the system’s effectiveness for 5th Brigade’s upcoming deployment.

“In an urban environment, it would be great,” he said. “In Iraq, it would be a great system. In Afghanistan, not so much.”

The brigade commander says Land Warrior ultimately will be only as successful as the men who wear it, in whom he said he has full confidence.

“5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is the most advanced ground combat formation in history,” said Col. Harry Tunnell.

“But technology will not reach its full potential unless complemented by tough, disciplined, well-trained warriors.”

Scott Fontaine: 253-320-4758

[email protected]



High-Tech Brigade Heads to Afghanistan, Loaded With Gadgets

* By Noah Shachtman Email Author
* June 29, 2009

The soldiers of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division are shipping out to Afghanistan this month — equipped with a controversial array of infantryman gadgets: electronic maps, GPS beacons, wearable computers, and digital radios. The troops are wondering just how useful the eight-pound, $48,000-per-soldier “Land Warrior” gizmo collection will really be, and whether the benefit will really be worth the extra weight.

It’s not the first time G.I.s have expressed concerns about the Land Warrior system. Nor is it the first time the technology array has proven its its value, despite its doubts.

After 15 years and a half-billion dollars in development, the Army officially canceled the Land Warrior program in 2006. Seeing your fellow troops on a digital map inside helmet-mounted monocle was nice; but it wasn’t enough to justify all the bulk. Money had already been spent to equip a single Iraq-bound battalion with the gear, however. So, despite some pretty horrendous reviews from the troops, the Army told the 4/9th Infantry take Land Warrior with them to war.

To their surprise, many of the 4/9’s troops found the gadgets to be pretty useful in combat. The soldiers stripped Land Warrior down from 16 pounds, made the gear more functional. At their suggestion, “digital chem lights” were added to the electronic mapping software. They let buildings, escape routes, and enemies be marked in green on every soldier’s monocle. During air assaults on Baquba, for instance, troops were regularly dropped a quarter or half-kilometer from their original objective; the chem lights allowed them to converge on the spot where they were supposed to go. In the middle of one mission, a trail of green lights was used to mark a new objective — and show the easiest way to get to the place.

It worked so well, the program was resurrected.

The 5th Brigade is now taking 895 Land Warrior ensembles to Afghanistan. Soldiers are questioning how much they’ll use digital chem lights in Afghanistan’s mountainous, largely-rural terrain. “I definitely see the application in Iraq, in an urban environment,” Capt. Edward Graham tells the News-Tribune. “But when you’re at 9,000 feet, sometimes you have to decide what’s appropriate.”

“In an urban environment, it would be great,” added Lt. Adam Smith. “In Iraq, it would be a great system. In Afghanistan, not so much.”

But the doubters have been wrong before.

[Photo: Peter Haley / The News Tribune]
* 7:35 am
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Old 16-07-2009, 10:50 AM   #15
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Army Axing High-Tech Uniforms, "Future"

December 6, 2006 06:57 PM

The Army made a big decision http://www.noahshachtman.com/archives/002872.html back in October. After 15 years and a half-billion dollars in development, the service would finally take Land Warrior http://www.gdc4s.com/documents/LandWarrior083105.pdf its ensemble of high-tech soldier gear, to war for the first time. The collection of radios, GPS-locators, and next-generation rifle scopes wasn't perfect -- far from it. But, for infantrymen who typically don't even have a walkie-talkie, it was an important first step towards plugging the average soldier into battlefield network.

But, just six weeks later, the Army appears to have reversed itself. According to Inside Defense http://defense.iwpnewsstand.com/ service financiers have decided to kill off Land Warrior in its 2008 budget http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,120100,00.html It's one of a number of high-tech programs slated for big cuts by the Army.

The service got $17 billion less than what it wanted for its 2008 budget from the Pentagon and the White House. "Earlier in October... Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said if the service got less than what it needed in FY-08 it would be forced to slow the modernization of the force," Inside Defense's Dan Dupont notes. "In submitting its budget plan to Pentagon leaders last week, the Army contended that budget constraints have forced the service to take what it believes are imprudent risks in the readiness of today�€™s forces, as well as in its future plans."

Future Combat Systems -- the Army's plan to connect all its next-generation tanks, robots, and fighting vehicles to that battlefield network -- is also slated to take a good-sized hit. http://www.noahshachtman.com/archive...fcs_watch.html

By delaying key milestones, shifting some pieces of the program out of FCS plans and killing others, the Army believes it can save more than $3.3 billion over the next six budget years (fiscal years 2008 to 2013).

The moves would reduce the cost to field each FCS brigade combat team, but it would also push back procurement plans for BCT equipment, delaying by five years the schedule for fielding the teams, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The FCS cuts also entail the removal of some unmanned aerial vehicles from the program and the deferral of some vehicles, as well as some ammunition. The upshot of the moves would be an FCS program consisting of 14 platforms plus the network, down from the 18 envisioned today, with FCS systems to be fielded at a rate of one brigade combat team per year for fifteen years, beginning in 2015. Prior plans called for those 15 BCTs to be fielded at a rate of 1.5 per year over 10 years.

Now, just because the Army has proposed these cuts doesn't necessarily mean they are going to happen. As you may have heard, there's a new party taking over Congress. And, at least in the run-up to the elections, these guys made a lot of noise about giving the Army a boost http://www.noahshachtman.com/archives/002939.html Then there's the new Secretary of Defense. He may be more favorably inclined to funding the Army than his predecessor was http://www.noahshachtman.com/archives/002799.html Certainly, he seems to look kindly on the larger goal of retooling the military. Check of this exchange with Sen. Elizabeth Dole:

SEN. DOLE: Dr. Gates, the transformation efforts undertaken by Secretary Rumsfeld are critical to meeting the challenges of the 21st century. While Secretary Rumsfeld made transformation of the military a priority, obviously much remains to be done. In your view, which transformation programs are the most important and effective in fighting this war on terror?...

MR. GATES: Senator Dole, one of the things that has impressed me the most in the briefings -- the very short briefings that I've received preparatory to this hearing, is the extent of the transformation that actually has taken place in recent years, compared to when I was in government.

I can't tell you how many crisis meetings I sat through in the Situation Room over a 20-year period, and we would look at military contingencies, and we would be looking at 60 to 90 days to generate a brigade, to get a military force on the move and in place.

So the expeditionary nature of the Army, the mobility, the change in mind-set -- sometimes perhaps those of you who have been really close to it may not fully appreciate just how dramatically the situation already has changed, compared to when I was in government last.

I think that the transformation needs to continue... The two things that I think make a lot of sense has been this shift of the Army from being basically a static force to a more mobile expeditionary force. I think that's very important.

I think that the -- based on very superficial information at this point, this -- the shift from divisions to the brigade structure does make a lot of sense, and I think it provides a lot more flexibility.

I would say that one of the things that I think is very important in the transformation is continuing to strengthen our capacity to fight irregular wars. I think that's where the action is going -- is most likely to be for the foreseeable future. And so I think it's very important that it go forward.
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Old 16-07-2009, 10:52 AM   #16
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Soldiers Hate High-Tech Uniforms

* By Noah Shachtman Email Author
* April 18, 2007
* 11:40 am

I went to Ft. Lewis last summer expecting the soldiers there to love their new wearable electronics package, called "Land Warrior." http://www.noahshachtman.com/archives/003044.html The reaction I got instead was… different, to say the least. Read the article http://www.popularmechanics.com/tech...w/4215715.html in the current Popular Mechanics, to get the full details — and to hear about my own mini-adventure in the new soldier suit. Here’s a snip:

There’s a half-billion dollars invested in the gear hanging off the heads, chests and backs of the soldiers of Alpha company. Digital maps displayed on helmet-mounted eyepieces show the position of all the men in the unit as they surround a block of concrete buildings and launch their attacks. Instead of relying on the hand signals and shouted orders that most infantrymen use, Alpha company communicates via advanced, encrypted radio transmissions with a range of up to a kilometer. It’s more information than any soldiers have ever had about their comrades and their surroundings.

But as Alpha kicks in doors, rounds up terror suspects and peals off automatic fire in deafening six-shot bursts, not one of the soldiers bothers to check his radio or look into the eyepiece to find his buddies on the electronic maps. "It’s just a bunch of stuff we don’t use, taking the place of useful stuff like guns," says Sgt. James
Young, who leads a team of four M-240 machine-gunners perched on a balcony during this training exercise at Fort Lewis, Wash. "It makes you a slower, heavier target."

Pop Mech also has a detailed breakdown of how Land Warrior works. And don’t miss this D.I.Y. video evaluation of the gear that soldiers made a few months back.
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Old 16-07-2009, 10:57 AM   #17
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High-Tech Soldier Suit, Crawling Back From the Dead

* By Noah Shachtman Email Author
* March 27, 2008
* 12:51 pm

(Photo: Noah Shachtman)
The Army’s soldier suit of the future, once left for dead, appears to be crawling back to life.

After 15 years and a half-billion dollars in development, the Army officially cancelled the Land Warrior program http://www.noahshachtman.com/archives/003044.html and its collection of electronic maps, GPS beacons, digital radios, and next-gen rifle scopes for infantrymen. All kinds of configurations of the wearable electronics were tried. But the gear always wound up being too bulky to justify the seemingly-modest help it provided frontline soldiers, the Army decided.

It was a major let-down. Over the last decade, the military has connected nearly all its command posts and all its vehicles into a kind of internet for battle http://www.wired.com/politics/securi...2/ff_futurewar That allowed them to, at the very least, see each other’s locations and better coordinate attacks. Land Warrior was supposed to bring the individual soldier into the network.

Money had already been spent to equip a single Iraq-bound battalion with the gear, however. So, despite some pretty horrendous reviews from the troops, the Army let the 4/9th Infantry take Land Warrior with them to war. http://blog.wired.com/defense/2007/0...rs_hate_h.html

And then, something rather odd and unexpected happened. The 4/9 — known since the early 1900’s as the "Manchus," for their fighting in China — stripped Land Warrior down, made the gear more functional, and discovered the equipment could actually be pretty useful in combat.

By consolidating parts, a
16-pound ensemble was whittled down to a little more than 10. A the digital gun scope was abandoned — too cumbersome and too slow for urban fights. And not every soldier in the 4/9 was ordered to lug around Land Warrior. Only team leaders and above were equipped.

The Manchus suggested new features to Land Warrior’s software, too.
Like "digital chem lights," which let buildings, escape routes, and enemies be marked in green on every soldier’s electronic map. During air assaults on Baquba, for instance, troops were regularly dropped a quarter or half-kilometer from their original objective; the chem lights allowed them to converge on the spot where they were supposed to go. In the middle of one mission, a trail of green lights was used to mark a new objective — and show the easiest way to get to the place. http://defensenewsstand.com/cs_newsletters.asp?NLN=ARMY

Not every Manchu had his mind changed. But enough were impressed that the leaders of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 5th Brigade Combat Team officially asked the Army to give them 1,000 units of an upgraded Land
Warrior system. And now, Inside Defense reports, that request has been approved. Land Warrior may be back from extinction.

If they can get the $102 million needed to field and test the things. Once a program is officially cancelled, that’s hard to do.

Lt. Col. Brian Cummings, program manager for Land Warrior is optimistic, however. “It’s looking very promising that we’re going to get that funding and move forward,” he tells Inside Defense. Last year, the Senate Armed Services Committee asked for $80 million to revive Land Warrior — going over the Army’s head, in effect. This time, the lawmakers won’t have to.
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Old 16-07-2009, 11:01 AM   #18
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F-22 + Sonic Boom = Pretty Pictures

By John Mahoney Posted 30.06.2009 at 3:45 am

F-22 Sonic Boom US Navy

I guess Michael Bay was on to something. It may go down as the first $200-million stealth fighter to have its starring roles in action movies outnumber its usages in actual combat before the program bites the dust, but it can certainly throw a pretty sonic boom.

This photo was taken by the Navy last week during a training exercise in the Gulf of Alaska. [Navy photo via Ares]
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Old 16-07-2009, 11:02 AM   #19
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Gamer's Graphics Cards To Power US Defense Systems

The Nvidia cards gamers are buying to make their war-games look better are likely to power US defense systems
By Dan Toose Posted 26.06.2009 at 1:14 pm

Scientists with Nvidia graphics card Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

Video gaming computers and video game consoles available today all contain a graphics processing unit (GPU), which is very efficient at making calculations required to produce the high-end visuals we see in games. However, the unit’s highly parallel structure also makes it more efficient than a general-purpose central processing unit for a range of complex calculations important to defence applications.

Researchers in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering are developing programming tools to enable engineers in the defence industry to utilize the processing power of GPUs without having to learn the complicated programming language required to use them directly.

“As radar systems and other sensor systems get more complicated, the computational requirements are becoming a bottleneck,” said GTRI senior research engineer Daniel Campbell. “We are capitalizing on the ability of GPUs to process radar, infrared sensor and video data faster than a typical computer and at a much lower cost and power than a computing cluster.”

The researchers are currently writing the functions in Nvidia’s CUDA™ language, but the underlying principles can be applied to GPUs developed by other companies, according to Campbell. Studies have shown that VSIPL (Vector Signal Image Processing Library) functions operate between 20 and 350 times faster on a GPU than a central processing unit, depending on the function and size of the data set.

“The results are not surprising because GPUs excel at performing repetitive arithmetic tasks like those in VSIPL,” noted Richards. “We’ve just alleviated the need for engineers to understand the entire GPU architecture by simply providing them with a library of routines that they frequently use.”

The research team is also assessing the advantages of GPUs by running a library of benchmarks for quantitatively comparing high-performance, embedded computing systems. The benchmarks address important operations across a broad range of U.S. Department of Defense signal and image processing applications.

For the future, the researchers plan to continue expanding the GPU VSIPL, develop additional defence-related GPU function libraries and design programming tools to utilise other efficient processors, such as the cell broadband engine processor at the heart of the PlayStation 3 video game console.

It would seem things are coming full circle – hard drives and solid state drives were developed for missile guidance systems by defence forces, and now they’re in our PCs. It would seem that the demand for a rapid improvement in gruntier technology doesn’t have to come from the military all the time – gamer's demands for better GPUs are now doing their bit in their own self-indulgent way.
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Old 16-07-2009, 11:04 AM   #20
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Default Half-Robot, Half-Insect 'Cybug' Spies

Here you go DJ..just came accross this one too...check out the highlighted part...if they can micro chip 'bug's..imagine how small the bloody chips are now...

Military Developing Half-Robot, Half-Insect 'Cybug' Spies

Miniature robots could be good spies, but researchers now are experimenting with insect cyborgs or "cybugs" that could work even better.

Scientists can already control the flight of real moths using implanted devices.

The military and spy world no doubt would love tiny, live camera-wielding versions of Predator drones that could fly undetected into places where no human could ever go to snoop on the enemy.

Developing such robots has proven a challenge so far, with one major hurdle being inventing an energy source for the droids that is both low weight and high power.

of attempting to create sophisticated robots that imitate the complexity in the insect form that required millions of years of evolution to achieve, scientists now essentially want to hijack bugs for use as robots.

Originally researchers sought to control insects by gluing machinery onto their backs, but such links were not always reliable.

To overcome this hurdle, the Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (HI-MEMS) program sophisticated robots is sponsoring research into surgically implanting microchips straight into insects as they grow, intertwining their nerves and muscles with circuitry that can then steer the critters.

Anyone think its still si Fi and we are not next??...and when were no longer any use...DELETE

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