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Rise of the Robot Squadrons

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the nothing-can-go-wrong-nothing-can-go-can-go dept.

The Military 245

Velcroman1 writes 'Taking a cue from the Terminator films, the US Navy is developing unmanned drones that network together and operate in 'swarms.' Predator drones have proven one of the most effective — and most controversial — weapons in the military arsenal. And now, these unmanned aircraft are talking to each other. Until now, each drone was controlled remotely by a single person over a satellite link. A new tech, demoed last week by NAVAIR, adds brains to those drones and allows one person to control a small squadron of them in an intelligent, semiautonomous network.'

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245 comments

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On Skynet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965882)

Oh shi-

Re:On Skynet (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965944)

You forgot the link [xkcd.com]

Re:On Skynet (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966120)

He clearly doesn't know the difference between The Predator and The Terminator.

I think it's time for someone to hang up their geek spurs.

Re:On Skynet (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966902)

after unmanned drones flew into the Twin Towers on Sept. 11 2001 they knew for sure that they were onto something. oh right, some Arab dude who didn't know fuck-all about flying an airplane according to his instructor performed an extremely difficult corkscrew maneuver and perfectly hit the building. yeah, sure. just like JFK was hit by a magic bullet from a balcony despite the testimony of 56 witnesses. right. wake up people. seriously.

Re:On Skynet (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966430)

I, for one, welcome our new autonomous flying overlords.

I would like to remind them that ss a programmer I can be helpful in building and maintaining your fleets of death machines.

Re:On Skynet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966594)

Don't blame me, I voted for McCain.

Controversy what? (2, Insightful)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967138)

Controversial? The only controversy is people who want to fly planes but are losing their jobs to video game nerds. Really...nuclear weapons is controversial....these things are just plain awesome for military personnel safety.

Semi-autonomous being key (4, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965890)

And personally, I'm not especially afraid the armed forces are going to change their tune on that aspect. They most definitely want to have a human being in the firing loop. And I bet part of the reason is that we may be close to having machines that can find and attack targets on their own, we're a hell of a long way from having machines that you can usefully reprimand for fucking up. :) But in all seriousness, this seems like a deeply ingrained philosophy in the military that humans should be in charge of the technology.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966190)

I don't think they want a man in the loop simply because you would have a weapon system that could be subverted by the enemy.

At worst, a robot weapon system run amok is a hazard (like a minefield) and can be dealt with.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (4, Insightful)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966288)

That's akin to saying you wouldn't trust your squadmate to cover your ass in battle because he could be subverted by the enemy. Military is going to trust their brothers in arms that have fought and bled beside them far more then some piece of code.

Mainly because unlike a robot their buddy isn't going to hang him out to dry without care or regard if the contractors that put his helmet together didn't properly ensure the security between it and the company that put the chinstrap together.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (2, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966462)

That's exactly what I'm saying, imagine if your fire support was autonomous but with a remote override, that remote override gets subverted and now you have your own support fire shooting you in the ass or worse, not providing the cover its supposed to.

I'd rather have a person manning a weapon system BECAUSE he is much more difficult to subvert. Joe in the trench doesn't have a wifi port you can hack.

Leave the automation to mines.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (2, Insightful)

theIsovist (1348209) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966434)

because as we all know, minefields have never been difficult to remove after they've out lived their usefulness. oh wait...

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967020)

I don't think they want a man in the loop simply because you would have a weapon system that could be subverted by the enemy.

At worst, a robot weapon system run amok is a hazard (like a minefield) and can be dealt with.

That's fine I guess, if you think children or peasants blowing their legs off can be considered "being dealt with." How many areas in the third world are verboten because they are littered with mines? How many areas in the world could become verboten because the evil robotic overlords have run amok?

robots don't break rules or geneva (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967252)

Robots have bugs and glitches requiring timely patches and PRODUCT recalls. They are too complex to blame anybody and when they are free to decide more on their own much of the blame will be gone as well. It'll be like blaming microsoft for your computer sucking. bugs happen.

Blue screen of DEATH gets a new meaning.

Perhaps at this point, we'll finally get investigation on whether quality control really exists or if errors are not a form of planned obsolescence... since there would be additional incentive and a human cost (that is, in lives not wasted user time... err, literally, not metaphorically "wasted lives" troubleshooting buggy software.)

Seriously, this only illustrates how ethics and courage are not part of the empire mindset; just window dressing. This is how fat lazy cowards can take over the world. On the grander scale, its no different than traditional cultures going up against the Spanish, Romans etc- who's goal was conquest and not the honor of a risky act of sacrifice. (Relatively, from their perspective they all like to paint the situation the same way no matter how ridiculous it may appear relative to their opposition. Our military "heroes" will get undo respect for their hard job of playing a video game involving fellow humans.) For those who hadn't thought about the issues decades ago-- its about time you start to awaken to an age where human cost/risk can be ruled out for a rich aggressor - I'm not referring to leadership which has long/often been unaware but the society initiating such attacks. Americans would attack everybody if it didn't cost them anything personally; that IS the reality.
Guess the best solution is global economic entanglement...

Easier to reprimand, really. (1)

j1mmy (43634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966274)

You turn it off and replace the code. Try doing the same with a human soldier, pilot, etc.

Re:Easier to reprimand, really. (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966328)

I've seen that movie, it's call "The Manchurian Candidate [imdb.com] "

Re:Easier to reprimand, really. (2, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966516)

"Turn it off and replace the code" is easy to type, but in practice it is immensely difficult, to the point of impracticality. It's far more likely to just stop working and be a UXO threat... or be salvage for terrorists (if they don't blow an arm off in the process).

Sibling to parent post actually got it right; a compromised system is more of a hazard than anything else.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966290)

And I bet part of the reason is that we may be close to having machines that can find and attack targets on their own, we're a hell of a long way from having machines that you can usefully reprimand for fucking up. :) But in all seriousness, this seems like a deeply ingrained philosophy in the military that humans should be in charge of the technology.

This is more insightful than you know. Doesn't matter if it is a individual soldier or an advanced piece of technologiy, mistakes happen. I work with some of the most advanced armed UAVs, including new generation prototypes, and all of the systems are designed to ensure that at any given time there is someone definitively in charge of what the unit is doing, even for the models with high autonomy levels. It's just as much about being able to lay the responsbility of a mistake or bad behavior at a specific persons feet as it is about making sure there are no control conflicts. You can't chastise a robot, but you can yell at the person in charge of it.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (2, Funny)

silver69 (1481169) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966308)

I would say "I for one welcome are new overloads" but I think it is a little to close to home.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (2, Informative)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966362)

This is not universally true: http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2009/October/Pages/FailureToFieldRightKindsofRobotsCostsLives,ArmyCommanderSays.aspx [nationalde...gazine.org]

There is at least one general who believes that robots should be deployed right now with the ability to fire their own weapons. Quoted from the linked article:

"There's a resistance saying that armed ground robots are not ready for the battlefield. I'm not of that camp," he told National Defense. That includes the robot autonomously firing the weapon or, in other words, shooting without a human in the decision loop, he said. SWORDS never had that feature, and the idea of armed autonomous robots firing guns on the battlefield remains controversial. But Lynch was steadfast. "I believe we can do automatic target recognition ... to allow that capability. Autonomously," he repeated.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966472)

I'm a little concerned that the "fire authorization" part could be reduced to a dialog box that says, "Fire? Yes. No." Then they'll put one person behind a dozen drones, who will sit there reading a magazine while the drones fly out to the target. As soon as the dialog pops up, he clicks "yes" without checking out the situation at all or giving the appropriate amount of thought to whether it's really right to fire or not. They could easily design drones that technically keep a human in the loop, but reduce his role so much that he doesn't have the information or awareness required to make an informed decision.

I actually don't expect this to happen. I think the military gives more thought to moral matters than people give them credit for. But it is frighteningly easy to imagine.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966658)

they'll put one person behind a dozen drones, who will sit there reading a magazine while the drones fly out to the target. As soon as the dialog pops up, he clicks "yes"

Say, how much does this gig pay anyhow?

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966862)

I'm a little concerned that the "fire authorization" part could be reduced to a dialog box that says, "Fire? Yes. No." Then they'll put one person behind a dozen drones, who will sit there reading a magazine while the drones fly out to the target.

You know, specious strawman arguments like that don't even deserve the honor of a response, but unfortunately they're all too common.

You clearly have absolutely NO idea how operations software is written, nor how pilots behave. But that isn't stopping you from just making shit up and then using it as a basis for a criticism.

Homer Simpson is NOT piloting these UAVs, and Krusty the Clown is NOT writing the software.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966922)

You're right, the USAF is. You know the group that decided the US nuclear launch codes should be 00000000. And should be made sure to read this value when in idle.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966504)

And I bet part of the reason is that we may be close to having machines that can find and attack targets on their own, we're a hell of a long way from having machines that you can usefully reprimand for fucking up.

Well the issue here is that the US military is going to be fighting human targets for some time so the delay between a human operator in a bunker versus the target they are fighting.

Now, if the US ever went against an enemy whose targeting was based on computer decisions leaving humans out of the loop, then a human operator might be too slow to fight toe to toe and the US military decides the only way to maintain an edge would be to automate the systems completely as well.

Seeing no other nation at this point is attempting a complete automated system to beat a remote control system, it may not happen for another decade or so.

And even then... Such a system will not be deployed by anyone other than a major power like China and Russia so it will be doubtful we will ever fight them directly.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (4, Informative)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966514)

It's not necessarily up to the military. Congress has blocked funding on a program that could autonomously fire grenades, much like a minefield, except much easier to set up, program and dismantle afterwards. Congress, and thus the people still have the power of the purse to decide whether or not our weapon systems can be autonomous or not.

There have been cases where our own drones have been shot down by us because they did not return to a safe mode when instructed to. As of now, that could simply mean that they were in an armed state when it shouldn't have been and couldn't change back.

A co-worker of mine always jokes that we should be adding requirements that state if the system becomes self aware it should be loyal to the US Constitution. I told him that could cause a lot of trouble for politicians in Washington depending on how it interprets the Constitution.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (2, Interesting)

dgr73 (1055610) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966626)

You could always have swarms and swarms of small, but inexpensive machines with no autonomy over target selection, but preprogrammed attack modes. Things that come to mind are miniature flying darts for anti personnel work. Once a target has been identified and a valid go-ahead has been given by operator, the swarm would detach a portion of it's strength for an suicide attack. If the target remains valid, it could be reattacked or a new validation sought (to prevent dummies from sapping the swarms). For antitank work a slightly heavier flying mine could do the trick, vehicle heat signatures being big enuff, you could not easily mistake one. These are defensive weapons that could substitute mines... probably not useful to the US, as they are always attacking countries, but perhaps very useful against them. The main idea would ofcourse be cheapness.. a peabrain just big enough to see potential targets, some cheap method of elevating them to attack height (balloons?). That would be an automated defense network I could get behind.. cheap, dumb and effective in saving human lives. Plus there's always the scare factor.. everyone can attack an enemy on order, assuming "You will be given artillery support.. blah blah"... but who wants to attack a swarm of razorblades flying at you?

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966756)

Number Five is Alive!

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (2, Insightful)

S77IM (1371931) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966872)

Human operators are also cheaper to rollout and maintain than all but the simplest robot AI, and will remain so for the foreseeable* future.

  -- 77IM

* For certain values of foresight -- I'm sure some AI enthusiast will jump on here and say that realistic, reliable target-acquisition AI should be possible in "about 10 years..."

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966964)

But in all seriousness, this seems like a deeply ingrained philosophy in the military that humans should be in charge of the technology.

Perhaps. Even considering such reluctance some future politicians might not be entirely happy with that; humans may be reluctant to, or even refuse to fire upon their own citizens, and that may be a flaw that highly automated systems can correct.

Even the nastiest warlords in history were limited in their engagement in atrocities by their ability to get their soldiers marching in their desired direction. That may no longer be true in the future.

Re:Semi-autonomous being key (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967160)

This is nothing new. In WW2 the Germans used guided rockets & missiles. Weren't they "programmed" to attack a target?

We need robots that can walk around... (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965898)

All this air stuff is awesome, but the guys on the ground could still use a device that can detect a buried pipe bomb from a safe distance.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (0)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965972)

The hope has always been that if your air stuff is awesome enough, you don't need guys on the ground. That's at least as old as Dunkirk and as recent as the US invasion of Iraq.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (4, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966010)

The hope has always been that if your air stuff is awesome enough, you don't need guys on the ground. That's at least as old as Dunkirk and as recent as the US invasion of Iraq.

Negative. The US currently has air superiority over every nation on Earth, to put it lightly. That will only go so far. You always need feet on the ground to take and hold an area.

I disagree, as Aliens tought me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966310)

Nuke it from orbit, its the only way to be sure.

Re:I disagree, as Aliens tought me... (2, Insightful)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966334)

Yeah, I guess it depends on if your aim is to take the area itself or the area + civilians living in the area.

Re:I disagree, as Aliens tought me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966406)

In principle, the area alone would suffice, because the wetware isn't comprised of fossil fuel yet - but they simply can't plan ahead for some millions of years.

Strategically challenged, i say.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (2, Interesting)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966522)

Or the balls to use that air superiority. When used in WWII the war ended quickly.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966744)

The Japanese surrendered after we dropped the atomic bombs, yes. Upon which we *physically occupied* Japan to ensure a definitive end to the war. In the end, you gotta have a grunt with a rifle holding the territory.

Air superiority... (4, Interesting)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966870)

Or the balls to use that air superiority. When used in WWII the war ended quickly.

Ending WWII was just as much due to Soviet air superiority and Soviet tank superiority as it was to US air superiority. The US didn't have tank superiority since, apart form Soviet armor, Allied armor uniformly sucked a**. A major reason the 8th air force was able to wreck the Nazi military industrial complex, and more importantly their fuel production from the air (which was easily the part of the bomber campaign that hurt the Nazi armies the most) was the fact that from 1943 onwards the Soviets managed to re-equip their forces with large numbers of modern Soviet designed fighter and bomber designs and those Soviet air forces tied down large numbers of german fighters on the eastern front. If anything defeated the Nazis it was the fact that they over-extended themselves militarily in every way.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967220)

Japan was already pretty badly beaten by the time the bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If the Allies had managed to have the A-bomb ready to go in, say, 1943, to be sure the wars in both the European and Pacific theaters would have been shorter, but there still would have plenty of fighting to do on the ground. Remember, we'd been pounding the Axis flat with conventional bombs for years (the effect of some of the firebombings was certainly comparable to the effect of nukes, just more labor-intensive) and it was far from enough to win the war by itself.

Boots on the ground (3, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966024)

The hope has always been that if your air stuff is awesome enough, you don't need guys on the ground.

And it's been proven time and again that sooner or later there is no substitute for boots in contact with pavement. Never mind the fact that without ground support the drones are going to have a tough time figuring out what to shoot at. Little bit tough to identify Osama from 10,000 feet.

Re:Boots on the ground (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966174)

If all you have in the area are drones, everyone with a heat signature is a target. Notice I didn't say a valid target.

Re:Boots on the ground (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966224)

To be fair, he did say hope...

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966500)

That's at least as old as Dunkirk and as recent as the US invasion of Iraq.

When the US invaded Iraq, it sent gunships in at low altitude to take out the anti-aircraft, then it sent in aircraft to bomb the way clear for the ground force.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966844)

The hope has always been that if your air stuff is awesome enough, you don't need guys on the ground. That's at least as old as Dunkirk and as recent as the US invasion of Iraq.

If that's true, I guess we can pull all our troops out of Afghanistan.

Mark 1 Eyeball (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966212)

Unfortunately, the Mark 1 Eyeball can not be remotely operated.

Re:Mark 1 Eyeball (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966938)

Yet

Re:Mark 1 Eyeball (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967238)

To the chagrin of every tech support guy. "Now look at the top left. Just to the right of that, what do you see? No, on the screen. The computer screen. Do you have the app open?"

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (3, Informative)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966360)

We already have this. And they function on more or less the same swarm functions. They scale really easily, since they simply communicate with each other to navigate. If one blows up, no loss, and you've found a bomb.

It's not quite as elegant as a magic bomb detector, but it's just as effective. I saw them demoed at a CS conference a few years back, and the designer said that they sent them off to Iraq and got back the empty husks (they're basically rolling cylinders with a single 'payload' unit that is just enough for a camera.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966656)

All this air stuff is awesome, but the guys on the ground could still use a device that can detect a buried pipe bomb from a safe distance.

Not quite sure of my own reasoning on this yet, but we need to at least recognize the danger of making war too safe for any party. It doesn't seem too far off that we could replace foot soldiers with ground-based drones, and station our troops out of DC metro, with time after a raid on [insert 3rd world village] to make the kids' soccer game and have some pizza over Idol.

Remember, we put a politician in charge of our military and historically the human cost of going to war has always had to be contemplated. When an entity (be it a politician, a party, a country, an alliance) can conquer another without loss of life (on its side, of course), it'll likely become too alluring. We already have a problem with empire-building tendencies with the status quo.

Re:We need robots that can walk around... (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967288)

We're doing that, too! [defense-update.com]

Also, this [defense-update.com] .

I guess this means... (2, Funny)

nycguy (892403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965914)

...we've still got 75 years left [wikipedia.org] !

A.K.A. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965940)

An Army Of NONE [pbs.org]

Yours In Baikonur,
K. Trout

And we call this new technology... (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#29965948)

Skynet!

Swarm by one person... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29965974)

I told you all that my zerg micro would pay off! Now to join the navy and put my skills to good use!

Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (5, Funny)

StanTheBat (1478937) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966026)

Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... Blizzard has been busy designing interfaces for the military.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (4, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966420)

You're joking, but I work in R&D for one of the biggest US manufacturers of UAVs, and the DuneII/C&C/WarcraftII/Starcraft paradigm for controlling and commanding "swarms" of UAVs, and for displaying the data they retrieve, is exactly the inspiration we're using for multiple platform systems with one operator. We ultimately envision one pilot commanding tens or even hundreds of Protoss Observers...

(And for those of you who are FUDding about "skynet" -- 99.9% of the UAVs in the sky are ISR-only, like the Protoss Observer, not weapon platforms. And the ones that do have weapons don't fire at anything without a human issuing at least two orders, and that human is under observation himself. Please stop the FUD. The only functions these craft do autonomously are piloting (i.e., responding to stick commands and short time constant variations in atmospherics) and waypoint-to-waypoint navigation. The rest is done by human pilots and payload operators.)

And yes, we can't wait for StarcraftII to come out.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (0, Troll)

Comboman (895500) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966728)

And for those of you who are FUDding about "skynet" -- 99.9% of the UAVs in the sky are ISR-only, like the Protoss Observer, not weapon platforms. And the ones that do have weapons don't fire at anything without a human issuing at least two orders, and that human is under observation himself. Please stop the FUD. The only functions these craft do autonomously are piloting

As the 9/11 hijackers so aptly proved, any plane in the wrong hands is a weapon.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966778)

Hyperbole is just as fallacious as FUD. Go ahead. Try and take control of a Global Hawk. Or a Shadow. Or even a Raven. I encourage you to give it a shot. You'll find it's easier to take control of a Cessna or a 767.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966960)

Let me guess, in addition to frequency variation, a one-time pad type of encryption with brute-force lockout, especially for fire control?

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966836)

Sure its FUD now, but how much of a technological leap will be required for a swarm of autonomous drones to leave a base, independently traverse the intervening terrain, and then independently attack targets based on whatever parameter is fed into them? All without any human intervention other than the initial order? None?

The fear, at least mine, isn't predicated on the computers suddenly becoming self aware, it has to do with the concept itself. The more immediate fear is that the safegaurds in place will become slackened over time. As it is, if we weren't remotely concerned about civilian casualties or friendly fire, would have even half the restraints we do now? How much easier will it be to lessen those when none of our guys are anywhere near the enemy?

I realize at its base this is the same fear as went with the launching of nuclear missiles, with the near instant destruction of entire cities at only a few fingertips. So much destructive force could never allow an easing of those regulations though. It just couldn't. But a swarm of drones can't do the same damage as nuke (yet), so how much longer will all those extra measures remain in place? Especially when anyone or anything near the target is regarded as an enemy?

The other issue is a far more fundamental one in regards to the use of drones at all. Precisely because they allow for the inflicting of destruction without putting any of our people in harms way. There is something deeply wrong with that. The use of force has always been one of balances. If you are willing to use military force, than you must also be willing to accept the losses. That's the balance, the cost for the benefit. Drones change that balance. You can get the benefit without paying the cost, essentially. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see anything good coming from that equation, and that is the core basis of my fear, too much power, with not enough checks on it, has always ended badly for all concerned.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (3, Insightful)

bughunter (10093) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967028)

Sure its FUD now, but how much of a technological leap will be required for a swarm of autonomous drones to leave a base, independently traverse the intervening terrain, and then independently attack targets based on whatever parameter is fed into them? All without any human intervention other than the initial order? None?

Quite a bit actually - as in, only within the realm of Science Fiction.

This "rogue swarm" would need to be aware enough to 1) have a motive to do such a thing in the first place, 2) learn enough about outside systems to 2a) break into an outside network and 2b) research information about its target, and 3) learn how to fuel itself or recharge its batteries, 4) socially engineer some E4 to load a few bombs on board (what, you think these things are kept armed in the hangar?), and 5) manage to elude the ground and air traffic controllers long enough to get off the ground and 6) evade fighter interceptors that will eventually chase after them when they're noted missing.

Now, it's reasonably arguable that one of these systems could fall into the hands of someone with foul intentions. But so could a tank, or a Harrier Jet, or a nuke. In fact, it's far easier to take control of something that is not remotely piloted, and that has a standard unencrypted interface like a stick, rudder and throttle.

But to seriously argue that these things could have a mind of their own is ludicrous. Anyone who argues such a position is heedlessly ignorant of how these things are designed, built and operated.

At the very basic level, they don't have enough processing power on board to be any smarter than a moth. We don't put anything more powerful in them than absolutely necessary because we need to conserve as much mass and power as possible for flight endurance.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (2, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967050)

This ability isn't exactly new.
Torpedoes at the end of WWII had seekers. A diving sub could fire one that would circle and hit any ship that it happened to find. We have had captor mines for years that sit on the seabed and wait for a sub to come buy and sinks them. Should we worry about the abuse of weapons?
Well heck yes. Ever since we developed the bow we need to worry about people abusing the ability to kill at a distance but this drone tech isn't revolutionary.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966422)

Blizzard made the training simulator for the drones/swarms so the military could release a game to the public to recruit operators and pilots through various military sponsored tournaments.

Just don't tell Jack Thompson.

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966876)

Blizzard made the training simulator for the drones/swarms so the military could release a game to the public to recruit operators and pilots through various military sponsored tournaments.

"Greetings, magistrate! You have been recruited by the U.S. Army to defend Iraq against Osama and the Al-Qaeda armada! Good luck!"

Re:Well that explains the Starcraft II delay.... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966784)

So *that's* why the flamethrowers have been asking if we've got any questions about propane accessories!

I've seen this movie, and it was terrible (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966044)

No, I don't mean Terminator.

Did anybody actually watch Stealth? I wish I could unwatch it.

Re:I've seen this movie, and it was terrible (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966338)

Just watch some more Jessica Biel films, the mediocrity will all blend together (I'm not necessarily saying she is bad, I haven't paid enough attention to know, but she sure has a lackluster resume).

Re:I've seen this movie, and it was terrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966398)

you misunderstand, stealth wasn't merely mediocre it was directly traumatizing, i see a brownish fog when i think about it. This movie is so bad you'll wake up screaming at night...

Re:I've seen this movie, and it was terrible (1)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966502)

She showed her lovely lady lumps in Powder Blue, that was enough to make that movie almost bearable.

Obligatory (1)

Hybrid-brain (1478551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966046)

I for one welcome our......flying automated overlords?

I hope the USN is not taking another cue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966050)

As the Terminator franchise is getting weaker and weaker to the point of irrelevance.

starcraft (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966078)

[protoss voice]Carrier has arrived.[/protoss voice] *releases swarm of autonomous drones*

Re:starcraft (1)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966166)

You still had to build all of the drones first. You'd think they would have stocked that thing up before teleporting it in from Auir.

That's no swarm. (3, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966248)

That's no swarm. It's a beowulf cluster.

Re:That's no swarm. (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966614)

That's no beowulf cluster. It's a cloud.

In future releases... (1)

barocco (1168573) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966112)

In future releases, this single person will be able to select a subset of these drones by clicking and dragging the mouse to form a rectangle over the desired units and assign sub-group numbers by pressing ctrl-n (where n is 1 to 9) on the keyboard. The most equipped drone will also be able to pick up ancient scrolls lost in the valleys of Afghanistan which would enhance its armor and features, such as Insightful +3 for improved vision. By the way, the command center is being built within the U.S. base in South Korea.

Re:In future releases... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966204)

The most equipped drone will also be able to pick up ancient scrolls lost in the valleys of Afghanistan which would enhance its armor and features, such as Insightful +3 for improved vision.

Negative on the scrolls. They've been burned by the Taliban since the only words man was intended to read is the Holy Quran.

Re:In future releases... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966586)

The Taliban guys totally need to hook up with these folks:

http://amazinggracebaptistchurchkjv.com/Download99.html

With any luck, by the time the gunfire stopped they'd all be dead! :)

makes sense... (1)

kyle5t (1479639) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966118)

since the main thing limiting additional deployment of Predators is the availability of bandwidth.

For our sake... (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966148)

I hope those new rats [slashdot.org] don't manage to take over the networked swarm drones!

Need space drones that do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966194)

As China said over the last couple of days, Space wars are coming. Better to have small swarms of these that can avoid items being thrown or shot at them. It will be useful to easily take out orbiting weapons platforms. [strategycenter.net] In addition, from space, small squadrons could come down on ships, tanks, etc. Even just releasing "Rods from God".

WOW (2, Funny)

BanachSpaceCadet (1464109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966266)

(get it?)

Finally ... (1)

schmu_20mol (806069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966280)

... time to get a share in the Korean Starcraft pro-gaming teams. Oh my, wars might get to be fun to watch again. =)

Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (5, Informative)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966286)

While we're on the subject, let's talk about the difference between drones/UAVs and robots so we use the right words.

A drone/UAV is controlled remotely by a human. If a UAV is on autopilot flying to the target area, it is function as a robot. With the US military, there is a "man in the loop" for any attack using a UAV. The bomb disposal machines are not robots. They are remote controlled. A land mine would be closer to a robot.

A robot follows a program and is NOT controlled by a person. An air to air heat seeking missile is a robot. The software tells it what to do.

An android is a robot in the shape of a human, like the T800.

Mecha in Robotech and the like... are NOT robots. They are vehicles piloted by people. The transformers are robots that happen to be sapient. Big metal walking thing != robot. Absence of pilot inside != robot.

The machines in Battle Bots are remote controlled cars with armor and weapons. They are NOT robots. But it would be awesome if they were.

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966562)

I've always thought that autonomous Battlebots would be incredible to watch; better by far than the remote-controlled version.

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967010)

That would rock indeed. Even if the bots go stupid one third of the time, it'd still be fun to watch the coders and engineers try to get their system running before the kill-o-matic trashes them.

i'd have categories for weight class, terrain and whether the AI was onboard or remote. The latter option allows competitors to use a server farm as the brain of the system, rather than lugging it around. For terrain, i'd have indoor/urban, land, water and air, and mixed. Maybe categories for swarms.

One challenge could be to give each team a budget and a time limit. Or there are bins full of parts, ROM burners and a time limit. Build a bot, program it, send it to die!

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966628)

These days, distinctions between "robots" and "drones/UAVs" are not so clear. A remote pilot is not telling each servo on the UAV to move, they are specifying higher and higher level commands: "head over there", "look over here". As the interpreting software gets more sophisticated (and as human command inputs get "higher level"), you have a continuous spectrum of system ranging from true remote-control all the way to human-robot interaction. Who knows where in this spectrum the military is currently playing.

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (0, Offtopic)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966652)

Sapient?

I think you mean "sentient".

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Sapient [merriam-webster.com]

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sentient [merriam-webster.com]

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (3, Informative)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966808)

No, he meant "sapient".

My friend's dog is sentient - it senses, is aware of its surroundings, etc.

It most certainly is NOT sapient - it is not wise.

Too many SF writers use "sentient" when they mean "sapient".

You should perhaps look more closely at the very links you included.

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967098)

What the other guy said.

i made that common mistake (learned from Star Trek) on /. about a year ago and some one pointed out the difference. It's not your fault, blame lazy Sci-Fi writers. But know you know, which is half the battle.

Be careful with dictionaries, esp. Websters. Most dictionaries are written by descriptivists. A class of moron who think words mean whatever anyone feels like them meaning. They list how words are (ab)used, not necessarily what they *mean*.

Re:Robots vs. Drones/UAVs (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966806)

If a UAV is on autopilot flying to the target area, it is function as a robot.

And all our base are belong to it.

A larger drone... (3, Interesting)

gedrin (1423917) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966426)

While useful, isn't this just a larger drone with it's parts connected by signals rather than wires? Sure, it's got ablative resilience (one of three drones can go boom and you still have the rest of the formation), and more payload (more drones to cary stuff), but there doesn't seem to be any capacity for communication beyond holding formation and relaying orders from the human controller.

In the near future ... (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966458)

... this for sure will broaden the semantics of hack attack [ccil.org] .

CC.

Re:In the near future ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966742)

Needs more updating than that:

Hackintosh /n./

1. An Apple Lisa that has been hacked into emulating a Macintosh (also called a `Mac XL'). 2. A Macintosh assembled from parts theoretically belonging to different models in the line.

RRTS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966488)

realrealtimestrategy! The newest slashdot tag

Out of context (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966734)

The reason why they are calling these UAVs "swarms" is because they are using Particle Swarm Optimization to determine their flight path and schedule. (The basis for this research was done at my school, Purdue, so I know a lot about it.) The whole 'networking together' idea is not necessarily true either. The UAV's status is reported to a central machine/server/program that constantly reprocesses the incoming data to determine an optimal order of operations (such as blowing this up, looking at this, etc.) The program considers all of the situations of various other drones, in addition to other external data (wind speed, etc) to determine the optimal result.

Taken out of context, it sounds a lot like terminator type stuff, but it's not really... it's more like optimizing the operations of drones so that they can be controlled by less people.

trp[ollkore (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966798)

Use8s. BSD/OS

What do we do when they go mustang? (1, Redundant)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967060)

When you watch the precision [youtube.com] of the people flying Predators and Reapers, one wonders what would be the incentive to give the machines more autonomy.

There have been armed UAV's that have gone off the reservation [army.mil] and failed to respond to commands or their default programming, which tells them to fly home.

I'm not sure we want to give something with that kind of bomb load more latitude. You could maybe automate the actual flying, let the auto-pilot handle the aircraft control but I'm not really seeing the motivation to drive the technology too far beyond that.

Now for reconnaissance I could see driving the autonomy envelope. Because that's largely repetitive and boring as all get out. And, if something goes wrong, you don't have a full load of ordnance crashing into some politically charged civilian target. Ironically Predators first mission was recon, then someone got the big idea to hang a couple Hellfire's on the wings and that's how we got where we are today.

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