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. ūüėČ

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. ūüėČ

(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. ūüėČ

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).¬†

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

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

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. 

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 missiles 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. 

(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… ūüėČ

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)

Losing The Edge, No More

Copyright

For years, there has been all sorts of uproar about the U.S. and its citizens and businesses losing their edge.

 

From critics who point out to how our educational system (especially through high school) is not keeping up, how we are not attracting and graduating enough folks in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), how our inventions are freely copied overseas, and how innovation and entrepreneurship is suffering at home whether due to challenging economic or social conditions.

 

Yet, when it comes to losing our edge,¬†nothing is more maddening than when the technological advances we do have are taken from us–this happens in numerous ways, including:

 

–¬†Cyber Attacks:¬†According to the Pentagon Strategy on Cyberwar as per the Wall Street Journal (15 July 2011) “each year a volume of intellectual property the size of the Library of Congress is stolen from U.S. government and private-sector networks.” Cyber espionage has affected a broad range of our prized national assets: from Space Shuttle designs to the Joint U.S. Defense Strategy with South Korea as del as the plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more. Moreover and unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. For example, this past August, McAfee disclosed a cyber spying operation dubbed¬†Operation Shady Rat¬†that infiltrated some 71 government and corporate entities of which 49 were in the U.S. and which included more than a dozen defense firms over five years, compromising a massive amount of information.

 

–¬†Spies/Insider Threats:¬†Spies and insider threats can turn over state secrets to foreign powers or entities causing a major lose to our competitive advantage. This has happened with convicted spies from Aldrich Ames to FBI agent Robert Hanssen, and more recently to Army Corporal Bradley Manning accused of turning over troves of restricted documents to WikLleaks. And despite the amazing efforts to catch these subversives, presumably, there are plenty more where they came from.

 

–¬†Expropriations:¬†We lose our edge to foreign nations and organizations when our high-technology or intellectual assets are used without our consent or otherwise seized and compromised. This can happen from having our copyrights trampled on, our designs simply copied and “knockoffs” produced and peddled, or even when we are in a sense forced to exchange our intellectual property for basic entry into foreign markets. But this also happens more explicitly and violently when our assets are literally taken from us. For example this happened in April 2001, when Chinese fighter jets intercepted (in international air space) and crashed a U.S. EP-3 reconnaissance plane and didn’t return it until July in disassembled pieces. Similarly, when the tail of the stealth modified MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, with sensitive military technology, used in the raid in Osama bin Laden’s was recovered and held by Pakistan for weeks before it was returned to the U.S. And we saw this again this week when the Iranians showed off a prized RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone they now have seized, and which secrets presumably may end up in Russian, Chinese, or ultimately terrorist hands.

 

Developing an edge is not something we should take lightly or for granted–It is based on lots of talent, experience, and hard work and we do not have an exclusive hold on any of these.

 

We must prize our scientific and technological advances and¬†secure these the way a mother protects it’s young–fiercely and without compromise.

 

No matter how much or fast we churn out the advances, it will not matter if we do not¬†safeguard our investments¬†from those who would take it right out from under us. We can do this by significantly increasing investment in cyber security, strengthening counterespionage efforts, and not letting any nation or organization take something that doesn’t belong to them without consequences–economic or military–that restore our edge and then some.

 

(Source Photo: here)

Kamikaze UAVs

Check out the new AeroVironment’s Switchblade–a weaponized Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)–demoed at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
The Switchblade is a backpack-sized, portable drone that can be launched by our soldiers on the battlefield to locate the enemy and take them out.
The Switchblades are weaponized drones–they are easily deployed from their launch tunes and then piloted remotely or autonomously to recon enemy positions.
Once the enemy is located, the operator can arm the drone and quietly send it in on a suicide bombing run–flying straight into the enemy target.
Popular Science and MSNBC is reporting that the U.S. Army has made a multi-million dollar order for these little kamikazes. 
The video demonstrates how soldiers under attack quickly and effectively use the Swichblade drones to safely counter and strike against enemy attackers.
Instead of calling in for reinforcements, our troops will now have the capability to deploy their own aerial support–anytime, anywhere.
Self-sufficiency is a great thing, especially when the enemy thinks they have you pinned down–and then boom! ūüėČ

Sensors, Sensors Everywhere

Three_surveillance_cameras

Sensors will soon be everywhere–waiting, watching, and working to capture information about you and the environment we inhabit.

Every sensor is an opportunityto collect data and use that data for making better decisions.

Of course, we see sensors deployed first and foremost from our military overseas, in Iraq and Afghanistan, which uses drones to spy on and strike on our adversaries. The drones are really flying platforms of sensors and in some cases with weapons at ready. According to the New York Times (20 June 2011) “From blimps to bugs, an explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars..the pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones…[and] has asked for nearly $5 billion for drones for next year.” These drones are providing ¬†“a Tsunami of data” from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The change to drones is so significant in our military that the Times reports that “already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined.”
Similarly, the Wall Street Journal (5 July 2011) reports that another type of sensor–surveillance cameras–are being deployed big time in China with a new surveillance network in Chongqing of 500,000 cameras (Beijing already has 280,000 cameras in its system) “that officials says will prevent crime but that human-rights advocates warn could target political dissent.” While this project is significantly larger and more aggressive than other cities have deployed, China is certainly not alone in deploying surveillance cameras in their cities–Chicago has 10,000, New York has 8,000, and London has over 10,000. ¬†According to the WSJ, the overall market last year for surveillance-equiptments sales, not including networking gear or software totaled $1.7 billion! ¬†So smile, you are on camera–and it’s candid, indeed.
A third article ran in Government Computer News (July 2011) on a more innocuous type of sensors to be used–this being the mass deployment of mobile sensors for the National Weather Service (NWS) on vehicle fleets such as Greyhound buses etc. ¬†Beginning in October, “2,000 commercial vehicles will be equipped with sensors…and will be sending data to NWS in near real time. ¬†We will be rolling out coverage on the national level.” ¬†The mobile sensors will be taking 100,000 observations daily–every 10 seconds, about every 300 meters–measuring temperature, humidity, dew, precipitation, and solar information.” ¬†In the future, we are looking at the potential of a “a sensing probe in every car”–for collecting information on hazardous roads, traffic patterns, and preventing accidents. Other applications for mobile sensors could be for “monitoring chemical and biological agents,” nuclear and radiological ones, or CO2 and Ozone and more.
While sensors can collect data that can be used to analyze situations early and often to help people; certainly, they can also be misused to spy on ones one citizens and suppress freedom. It can be a slippery slope. ¬†Perhaps that why¬†Wired Magazine recently asked (July 2011) who’s “Watching the Watchers,” making the distinction between:
1) Surveillance–the monitoring of events by those above, the authorities–with CCTV etc. and monitoring events from control rooms, potentially from anywhere around the world.
2) Sousveillance–the monitoring of events by those below, the citizens–with everyday smartphones, cameras, and videocams and posting the digital images and sound bytes to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and so on for the world to see.
With IPV6 providing enough Internet address for attaching sensors to every atom on the surface of the earth and sensors becoming smaller and more imperceptible,¬†we can soon monitor and report on everything, everywhere all the time.¬†Some of the biggest challenges remain ensuring the information monitored is kept secure, private, and used legally and ethically and sifting through all the data to identify the truly meaningful information from what’s just noise.
(Source Photo: here)