Emperor Titus and The Micro-Drones

The Talmud tells of how the wicked Roman Emperor Titus who destroyed Jerusalem and the Holy Temple in 70 AD was punished with a small insect that flew into his nose and gnawed at his brain for seven years.

By the time Titus died, they opened his skull and found the insect had grown to the size of a bird–the lesson was that Titus thought that he was so powerful with his legions, but G-d showed him that even a little insect sent by G-d could defeat him.

Now when I watch this amazing video from the Air Force about micro-drones, I see this story come to life all over again.

With Micro Air Vehicles, little drones the size of insects can carry out missions from surveillance to lethal targeting of enemy forces.

They can fly, hover, perch, power up, sneak up, sense, communicate, and attack.

With these micro-drones, especially in swarms, these small packages of sensors and weapons can bring a big wallop for our warfighters.

And like with Emperor Titus, you would not want these buzzing around and giving you big headaches–because these little buggers will be able to take down the mightiest of foes. πŸ˜‰

The Anti-Drone Drone

The Anti-Drone Drone

Last week FOX News reported on how the British were deploying tiny drones that can now fit in the palm of one’s hand. The Black Hornet Nano is only 4 inches long, weighs about half an ounce, and carries a camera that can take stills and video and transmit them back to a remote terminal.

Drones are becoming ubiquitous weapons of war, homeland security, law enforcement and more.

As other nations advance their drone programs, our efforts must not only be offensively, but also defensive–The Guardian reported (22 April 2012) that Iran has already claimed to have reverse engineered the Sentinel drone they captured in 2011 and are making a copy of it–lending some credence to this perhaps, this past week, they also showed surveillance footage that they claim came from the captured drone.

So how do you protect against drones-big and small?

While you can lock on and shoot down a big Predator drone out of the sky, drones as small as tiny bugs are going to be a lot harder to defend against.

The bug-like drones may not only carry surveillance equipment in the future, but could even carry a lethal injection, chemical or biological agents to disable or kill, or perhaps even weapons of mass destruction.

Moreover, they may not attack onsies-twosies, but in mass swarms like locusts ready to swoop down and destroy our crops, our lines of communications, and all sort of critical infrastructure.

The Atlantic (6 Feb. 2013) describes the idea for a “Drone-Proof City” of the future that someone came up with for an extreme architecture class.

Like cities in World War II that camouflaged entire sections with green military netting and other subterfuges, the idea here would be to create a “sanctuary” or “compound” that would provide a safe-zone from drones.

Whether using tall Minarets, cooling towers, other high-rise buildings and even window grills to obstruct the drones, or a “latticed roof” to create distracting shade patterns, or a climate-controlled city interior that could confuse heat-seeking missiles–all good ideas are welcome.

Of course, their are other options too such as anti-drone laser system that could shoot them down, electronic countermeasures that could confuse, self-destruct, or other take control of them, or even anti-drone drones–that would be specialized drones that could seek and destroy enemy drones in waiting or about to attack.

Drones everywhere–and nowhere to hide–we will need some extreme architecture to take out these buggers. πŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Ars Electronica)

A Seeing Eye

This video from NOVA is an amazing display of the surveillance capabilities we have at our disposal.

ARGUS-IS Stands for Automated Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System.

Like a “Persistent Stare,” ARGUS provides continuous monitoring and tracking over a entire city, but also it has the ability to simply click on an area (or multilple areas–up to 65 at a time) to zoom in and see cars, people, and even in detail what individuals are wearing or see them even waving their arms!

Created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), ARGUS uses 368 imaging chips and provides a streaming video of 1.8 gigapixels (that is 1.8 billion pixels) of resolution and attaches to the belly of a unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone.

ARGUS captures 1 million terabytes of a data a day, which is 5,000 hours of high-definition footage that can be stored and returned to as needed for searching events or people.

The Atlantic (1 February 2013) points out how using this over an American city could on one hand, be an amazing law enforcement tool for catching criminals, but on the other hand raise serious privacy concerns like when used by government to collect data on individuals or by corporations to market and sell to consumers.

What is amazing to me is not just the bird’s eye view that this technology provides from the skies above, but that like little ants, we are all part of the mosaic of life on Earth. We all play a part in the theater of the loving, the funny, the witty, and sometimes the insane.

My Oma used to say in German that G-d see everything, but now people are seeing virtually everything…our actions for good or for shame are visible, archived, and searchable. πŸ˜‰

Under The Beautiful Sea

Under_the_sea

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) is looking for a place to stash some new military capabilities.

In a DARPA news release (11 January 2013) it states they are looking to support the navy by placing hibernated deep-sea capsules with payloads at under water locations and at the seafloor strategically around the globe–“almost half of the world’s oceans are more than four kilometers deep” providing “cheap stealth”.

The capsules with carry non-lethal payloads for “operational support and situational awareness”–such as command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).Β 

Examples of pre-deployed payloads could be unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and probably, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).Β The release specifically states that this is “not a weapons program,” but you could imagine future evolutions of this.

The initial capabilities sought are forΒ “situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescue, or any mission that benefits from being pre-distributed and hidden.”Β 

The deep-sea capsules will need to survive under extreme pressure and be able to communicate at vast ocean depths to be remotely awoken and recalled when needed.Β 

Having capabilities available when and where needed–from the bottom of the sea to forward deployment–potentially mitigating some use of costly and non-stealth land bases.

I think this is an exciting idea especially since China was able to demonstrate its anti-satellite missilesΒ in January 2007 in shooting down its own satellite, and I would think that these new underwater pods being sought may be able to provide some alternatives for sensing and communicating in conflicts where satellites are destroyed or disabled and/or other military muscle in not readily available.Β 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Rakel SdPC)

The Guardian of Israel

“The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers or sleeps.” (Psalms 121:4)

Much is being celebrated about Israel’s new Iron Dome missile defense system with approximately 90% success rate for shooting down incoming missiles threatening populated areas and critical infrastructure.

However, Foreign Policy Magazine (20 November 2012) is touting another amazing advance by Israel, this time in robotic weapons systems.

It is called The Guardian Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV), and it is made by G-NIUS.

It’s a fully armored vehicle with 660 pounds of electronic sensors and weapons.

The Guardian can autonomously “run patrol of predetermined routes” or it can be controlled via remote or mobile command center.

– It can run at 50 miles per hour, has powerful off-road capability, and an robust obstacle detection and avoidance system.

– Guardian can carry 1.2 tons of ammunition and supplies.

– The robotic vehicle is outfitted with all-weather video and thermal cameras, microphones, loudspeakers, and electronic countermeasures.

– It alerts to suspicious activity, identifies sources of fire, and by human operator can open fire with “auto-taret acquisition”.

This versatile weaponized robot can be used for force protection or to guard strategic assets, it can be used for perimeter, border or convey security, and for combat or logistical support missions.

It is easy to see how UGVs like this, especially in concert with UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) can take on the enemy and help keep the troops out of harm’s way.

For the future of UGVs and UAVs, think of a swarm, with masses of robots managing the battlefield both with and without human operators, and the vision of Star Wars on the ground and in space is just generations of robots away.

Decloaking The Adversary

Romulan_warbird_decloaking

Yes, we lost a drone in Iran and they won’t give it back–that stinks!

Initially, the word coming out was it was a mishap, an accident, but the Iranians claimed otherwise–that they brought it down.

Who believed that they could actually do that?

Then there was word that the craft being displayed by the Iranians was a fake, a mock-up, only to reversed with a confirmation, as reported in Christian Science Monitor, that the drone “is almostly certainly the one lost by U.S. forces.”

Well now, InformationWeek is reporting (16 December 2011) that Iran really did bring down the stealth drone as well as how they claim to have done it.

First they jammed the communications of the RQ-170 Sentinel, so that with its command, control, and communications (C3) no longer intact, it was forced to go into autopilot and rely on GPS signals to find its way.

Then, the Iranians spoofed the GPS signal making the Sentinel think it was landing at a U.S. base rather than right into hostile territory.

If this is true, then not only is all the captured sensitive technology aboard the craft (such as radar, fuselage, coating, and electronics) in jeopardy of being comprised by reverse engineering, but also as the article states, the Iranians may have demonstrated the means to be able to literally “divert any GPS-guided missiles launched at targets inside its borders.”

Quite a scary thought when according to Reuters reports, Iran is less than a year from going nuclear!

So what is the truth and what is misinformation (PsyOps) to confuse or outwit the enemy and how much does any of that really matter if the Iranians have possession of our advanced technology along with the time and the nefarious partners to study it and use it against us?

Or perhaps, this is a great ruse by us and we intended for the Iranians to get the drone–tick, tick, tick… πŸ˜‰

We live in a new sophisticated world of electronic and cyber warfare and that combined with nukes makes for some truly dangerous scenarios.

Finally, we should never underestimate the capabilities or intent of our adversaries–surprise may be the the most potent enemy of them all.

(Source Photo: here)