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Military Working On Laser Powered Drones

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the amazing-laser dept.

Shark 95

disco_tracy writes "Modern militaries depend on fuel. Nearly 80 percent of the supplies delivered to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan consist of fuel, and it's no surprise that those military convoys are frequently the targets of insurgents. In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations. A new approach using lasers could provide power to drones in flight or to machines on the ground and remove the need for gas deliveries to army bases."

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wcpgr (1)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049446)

Inflammable stuff on the ground, birdbrain with Laser in the sky shooting down, what could possibly go wrong.

Re:wcpgr (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050170)

Laser powered dress?

Oh. "drones".

Well, never mind. I'll leave you to it, then.

so where does the laser power come from ? (4, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049464)

"remove the need for gas deliveries to army bases", so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

Or are we going to aim big orbital lasers at the army bases? That sounds like a good idea.

Also a dispersive light beam as described is not going to be efficient. R^2 losses on defocusing and all that. So more power needed at the base to send up to the drones.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (2)

cruff (171569) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049480)

"remove the need for gas deliveries to army bases", so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

Sharks, obviously.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049692)

Its going to be tricky to get that salt water pond around Kabul, that's for sure.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37050580)

If we taught our sharks to fly, there be no need for these...d rones...

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#37051604)

Sharks, obviously.

No silly, sharks are for the Navy. The army uses badgers [bbc.co.uk]

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

RespekMyAthorati (798091) | more than 3 years ago | (#37074536)

We don't need no stinkin badgers.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

jamiesan (715069) | more than 3 years ago | (#37055402)

Weren't we supposed to put the "Laser" on the moon?

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049672)

so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

From coal fired generators. Afghanistan has plenty of coal. Another option is solar arrays. Afghanistan also has plenty of sunshine.

So more power needed at the base to send up to the drones.

Probably not, since you don't have the weight of the fuel on the plane. Besides, coal/sunshine is orders of magnitude cheaper than aviation fuel. Plus you get much longer loiter time.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049858)

From coal fired generators. Afghanistan has plenty of coal. Another option is solar arrays. Afghanistan also has plenty of sunshine.

Where are the coal mines and solar power plants in Afghanistan?

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050100)

pretty much every army base is moving towards becoming a solar power plant.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052912)

They're not planning on going home any time soon then...?

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (2)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050116)

It's simple. First you invade. Then you dig a coal mine. Then you build a power plant. Then come the lasers and the flying drones. After that, you win the war.

It's all very energy efficient. We just need six more months, honest.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37050246)

Your tech tree takes too long.

Zerg rush! kekekekeke ;)

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37050816)

This might be the starcraft 2 player in me... but damn pretty sums up all RTS game mechanics.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37051356)

right up until they zerg-rush you...

bastards.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (2)

blindseer (891256) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050686)

so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

From coal fired generators. Afghanistan has plenty of coal. Another option is solar arrays. Afghanistan also has plenty of sunshine.

I was thinking more along the lines of a nuclear reactor. It's no secret that the military has been working on nuclear power plants that will fit inside a 40 foot ISO container. I don't know how much power one of these reactors can produce but it seems that the military has no shortage of trucks to keep bringing in fuel. Instead of bringing in fuel they can keep stacking up nuclear power plants until they have enough to meet their power needs.

I'm sure someone will consider these reactors a "proliferation" risk but they can be fueled with material that is worthless for nuclear weapons production. I believe there are thorium reactor designs that can be scaled down to where they can fit in a standard ISO container.

These reactors will be very expensive to build, at least at first, but there is considerable cost in fuel as well. I'm sure someone is working out the math right now in the DoD.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 3 years ago | (#37054556)

I was thinking more along the lines of a nuclear reactor.

Taliban + radioactive material. What could possibly go wromg?

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050972)

Don't forget that the electricity->laser->electricity conversion rate is all of a couple percent.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37052446)

20% - 25% currently; potentially 40%. See www.lasermotive.com

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37053252)

Could be around 20-25%, actually...

"Coal mines and solar arrays" (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37053418)

So it is too expensive and dangerous to transport fuel, but there is no risk of a coal mine or a solar array being the target of the Taliban? Not to mention the cables, the substations and the actual laser bases.

This thing just smells of trolling for a research grant.

And, by the way, even with the proper definition of order of magnitude (fifth root of 100, not 10 - Wikipedia is wrong here because the term was invented for astronomy) coal and sunshine are not orders of magnitude cheaper than avgas, unless you factor in those transport and protection costs. Which I suspect will prove to be identical.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049970)

Yeah, I just read the article to make sure, the idea they have there sounds pretty retarded to be honest. Especially because they are defocusing a LASER...

They'd be better off powering the damn things from satellites in orbit.
But then there comes the whole "you might burn our country with that laser system" nonsense. (which would be true, but still)

Think of a UAV powered entirely from orbit with a laser.
It could go essentially forever as long as the motors hold out.
That + pinpoint precise GPS and constant sync between them could lower the size of the laser pretty far.
With a small battery on board that lasts for an hour or so, even potential loss of signal from entering buildings or stuff like that could be managed.
And with that battery, you can also afford to run countless UAVs from one laser just being refocused between them all constantly.
UAVs suddenly got a lot lighter and a lot smaller.

Same could be done with larger devices on a separate laser for more demanding requirements, such as helicopters, trucks, even tanks.
Then another for even larger applications, such as the actual military bases themselves.

Do it with a beam that isn't affected by most of the constituents of the air, minimizes losses in power even further.

Why it hasn't be done? They'd rather waste money moving fuel around physically than do something that would solve a HUGE problem all at once.
Lasers? We'll have none of that science here!

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 3 years ago | (#37054622)

They'd be better off powering the damn things from satellites in orbit.

Attaching wires to satellites and drones, in a sort of space elevator design? That might just work!

Think of a UAV powered entirely from orbit with a laser

Ah, yes, I see what you mean - that's a much better idea...

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37051732)

Maybe the real application is powering satellites.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37054274)

They get plenty of power from solar arrays, no pesky atmosphere to lessen the light or anything. Satellites still need fuel for orbital corrections and such, and that's the energy that runs out.

Re:so where does the laser power come from ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37054028)

Orbital mirrors. You shoot up lazors in USA and use orbital mirrors to reflect it to airplanes over Europe. A few casualties on the ground due to laser burns are acceptable because they're not americans.

Didn't I read about this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049490)

Hrm. I wonder if this has anything to do with the NOTAMs regarding military installations experimenting with lasers.

Laser power will be relayed overseas (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049502)

By sharks with lasers on their heads

Re:Laser power will be relayed overseas (1, Troll)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049742)

This meme will never get old. Never. 20 year from now, we'll still be associating sharks with lasers. They (the people 20 year from now) won't know *why* the two are related, but at that point it won't matter, it'll become vestigial. And all of this because ACs like you. Thank you.

Keeping the dream alive! (1)

earls (1367951) | more than 3 years ago | (#37051802)

Troll? Seemed sincere to me. ;)

Vaporware meets line of sight. (3, Insightful)

azop (935907) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049528)

Sounds like vaporware, which works out well for the government. They will spent zillions of dollars to find out, crap, it doesn't work. Lasers can't bend very well, so you need line of sight. Then, I have to ask, what powers the laser? Hell, I have a great idea on making a perpetual motion device. Okay, not really, but I might, and I'll gladly accept zillion of dollars to prove to you that it doesn't work.

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049784)

well i suggest to add "can be powered by laser" to the proposal for the Comanche helicopter and try again to build it. i mean 7billion$ and 2 prototypes, thats just 3.5 billion per piece. Now if lets say 10 prototypes could be build with the laser power supply for lets say 4 billion more than the price per piece has dropped to 1/3, that sound economical to me.

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049990)

Laser powered, eh? That just leads to equipment that you can take out with a paint-ball gun.

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050140)

A) It's fopr drone. SO not a whole lot of power, ATC.
B) they fly to the base, circle and then fly back out on a mission.
C) Solar/wind/Nuclear battery/coal/ guy on a peddle powered generator.

The pentagon has seen some excellent success with some new solar technology. Stuff you unroll and then staple to the side of a building. The are moving a billion dollars into solar research.

So at the end of the day, we The war in the med-east may bring us cheaper power, or even day times self generated power.

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050302)

TFA also said it could be used at night. Now I'm thinking that a formerly stealthy UAV is going to have a 1kW infrared laser pointing at its belly. By prying out the little IR filter from my cell phone's camera, it can quite clearly see IR. If they deploy these, how long will it take before bad guys are scanning the skies with their modified cell phone cameras? "Hey, look at that glowing thing flying over us. Must be American UAV."

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

shugah (881805) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052444)

Export controls on cell phones.

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052596)

Yep, the stock terrified American answer to everything. I'm sure that'll prevent all those "Made in America" cell phones from reaching Afghanistan. Every American cell phone factory ... hmm ... uh, mmm ...

Does it count if we import them first?

Re:Vaporware meets line of sight. (1)

sabt-pestnu (967671) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050598)

No, no, no!

Lasers aren't vaporware!
Lasers MAKE vaporware! ... depending on power and focus limitations, of course...

Gasoline? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049534)

In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.

Not sure who these soldiers could be, since NATO uses diesel, not gasoline.

Re:Gasoline? (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049600)

No shit. Most drones and aircraft run on JP-8 jet fuel, which is also a substitute for diesel.

Re:Gasoline? (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049702)

I thought all that gas was used for air conditioning.

a) I can't imagine drones account for much gas
b) With lasers drone will be limited to line-of-sight
c) Laser power will require *much* more energy than gas, where will the power for the lasers come from?
d) It's a crap idea which will never work

Another fine example of military pork spending.

If you want to save lives, why not just send everybody home?

Re:Gasoline? (2)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049930)

c) Laser power will require *much* more energy than gas, where will the power for the lasers come from?

What I'm wondering is how much energy is lost on the way. Also, how does weather effect this system?
This might be useful for UAVs that are always close to base, possibly on a repeating patrol pattern. But even then: "David Graham is CEO of Powerbeam, a company that uses a similar technology to deliver small amounts of power to home appliances. He says the advantages of powering a UAV via a beam are lost because of the distances involved"

It's interesting technology, but this doesn't seem to be the ideal application.

Re:Gasoline? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052570)

I have to wonder if the truly obviously "What moran thought that would work?" ideas the military has (that ALWAYS seem to get some funding) aren't a cover for their black bag projects.

Think about it, nobody really investigates any further because the idea was dumb as shit from the start so of course it didn't work, the really dumb shit projects only get funded (usually) for a few years, just enough to pay for some little nasty ops, and when it is "canceled" because it is a stupid idea nobody is really surprised.

Sounds to me like a perfect way to cover for all those "really nasty we shouldn't be doing that or be there in the first place" kinds of projects. Considering our history of being happy to fuck up anyone in the world if it will let a corporation exploit a new market ( as Adam Smith tried to warn the Brits about [reason.com] back in his day) or get bananas .04c cheaper? Sadly it wouldn't surprise me, it wouldn't surprise me at all.

Re:Gasoline? (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052622)

fine example of military pork spending.

ie. It will happen when pigs fly, then they will be cooked in mid air.

Re:Gasoline? (1)

quenda (644621) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052012)

In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.

And countless thousands have died in a military operation to deliver gasoline.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War [wikipedia.org]

Re:Gasoline? (1)

ewanm89 (1052822) | more than 3 years ago | (#37054328)

US forces use mostly aviation fuel, from abram's tank (check the specks, it's a gas turbine engine) to predator drone, one single fuel supply to power the lot is easier on the logistics. Now the rest of NATO still uses diesel engines a lot still in their tanks and ships (which is why the challenger 2 is slower than the abrams they are pretty similar past that).

Distortion of statistics (3, Interesting)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049544)

In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.

And how many of those thousands were during combat operations? Less than 100. Distort things much? You're still going to need to get fuel to the laser so it can power the drone ... unless you think its just going to run on sunshine and rainbows?

Most fuel accidents happen no where near combat zones due to people being slack. Tensions in combat zones and natural selection tend to keep things actually safer in that respect.

As with most things related to the military, some idiot gets a number, then goes completely doom and gloom, and suddenly OMFG WE GOTTA STOP THAT!

Let me tell you what the lazier based solution does ... gives them something to see in order to know A) Where the object needing fuel is located at as its being fueld and ... B) The location of the refueling system. Invisible laser you say? Doesn't exist. You may not see it with the naked eye, but it'll have enough interference in the atmosphere to leave a detectable effect regardless of wavelength if it has enough energy to provide power to a drone over any sort of distance. Put on the right goggles and it'll shine for you, then you shot down the drown and mortor the refueling point. As they say in Counter Strike ... Terrorist win.

Note: I as expected, did not read the actual article, just the summary. Its more fun that way.

Re:Distortion of statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049894)

Combat? Who said anything about combat? And what does combat matter? Or are you saying soldier's lives only count if they're killed in combat? If reducing fuel deliveries means that many less die in delivery-related accidents, that's a win.

Not that I think the whole laser thing makes any sense. Apart from the inefficiencies, drones can fly back to relatively safe/easy to access base of operations. And I doubt drone fuel makes up much of the transported fuel - things like air conditioners powered by generators is what really does it.

Re:Distortion of statistics (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049940)

Combat? Who said anything about combat? And what does combat matter? Or are you saying soldier's lives only count if they're killed in combat?

Soldiers die all the time; the military is a fairly high-risk job even in peacetime. The important question is, will they be less likely to die in whatever new duty they're given once they stop driving trucks in Afghanistan.

If the Army follows the suggestion up above about mining coal in Afghanistan to power the lasers, I think we can be pretty sure that more soldiers will die doing that than driving trucks to deliver drone fuel.

Re:Distortion of statistics (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050146)

For that matter, being a civilian commercial truck driver is a pretty high-risk job. But, they don't have an advanced research projects agency, so I guess their lives are expendable.

Re:Distortion of statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37050060)

Note: I as expected, did not read the actual article, just the summary. Its more fun that way.

That's okay, I never read the comments before modding them. Posted as AC because I have already moderated in this thread and I am too lazy to search for something else to vote on.

Re:Distortion of statistics (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050216)

" unless you think its just going to run on sunshine and rainbows?"
Kinda:
Sunshine
http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/us-military-brings-solar-power-to-its-front-lines/4321 [smartplanet.com]
http://www.military-solar-power.com/ [military-solar-power.com]
http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/military-products/military-products.php [powerfilmsolar.com]

AS for rainbows, they could use the drug crops and turn it into biofuels.

I person is killed form enemy action for every 24 convoys. So, yea 1000 killed due to enemy action sounds about right.

"As with most things related to the military, some idiot gets a number, then goes completely doom and gloom, and suddenly OMFG WE GOTTA STOP THAT!
As with most thing in the military, it did not happen that way.

"As they say in Counter Strike .
ah, I see. Your military/logistics experience comes from a kids game,how cute.

"Note: I as expected, did not read the actual article, just the summary. Its more fun that way."
I have no idea why someone finds it fun to be completely wrong.

Re:Distortion of statistics (0)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052406)

Wow, how awesome, you replied to me to show me whats up ... but posted absolutely nothing related to the article being discussed.

I'm aware of solar power, its not unique to the military ... its also in no way a viable energy source for military operations anywhere and won't be any time soon, if ever, which is highly unlikely regardless to how many companies you post that claim to be making stuff for the military. My company makes stuff for the military too, it has jack shit to do with any sort of thing that results in deaths. Charging your razor in the field, in my opinion, doesn't really count. If it counts to you, then I have a nuclear bomb in the works in my house, you'd probably call it a smoke detector.

So to date, since 2001, just under 2700 people have died in all coalition forces. Just under 1800 total deaths in the last 10 years of US soldiers.

Now ... if you think over half of the deaths in the entire Middle East are from driving diesel and kerosene tanker trucks around then your're an idiot with absolutely no idea whats going on in our military operations.

As to the rest of your reply, well throw in a couple wooooshes and another you're an idiot.

Re:Distortion of statistics (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | more than 3 years ago | (#37053770)

2700 people may have died, but what about the wounded? And we're not talking "guy got shot, made complete recovery" we're talking "missing legs, arms, faces". In Iraq alone the official number is over 33,000 and quite possibly a good deal higher.

Re:Distortion of statistics (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 3 years ago | (#37051612)

.. unless you think its just going to run on sunshine and rainbows?

Next week on slashdot - "Military investing in rainbow powered lasers!"

Don't let Gomer Pyle control that laser... (1)

madhatter256 (443326) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049572)

Let's hope they don't have a private control the orientation of the laser.... you don't want them to hit and ignite the oil drums that powers the rest of the stuff :-P.

SHARKS LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049586)

Christ on a crumpet that shark/laser joke was old as soon as the ink was dry on the original script.

(and the captcha is "overuse"; how appropriate)

Great (1)

Phleg (523632) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049598)

Now thousands of troops will simply die while trying to hold mirrors providing line of sight back to the original light source.

Laser-powered cabs - Systems by W.T. Quick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049604)

Interesting method of power distribution. I recommend the book below.

http://www.amazon.com/Systems-Signet-W-T-Quick/dp/0451163427

They would still need Air Conditioning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049616)

Fuel for drones represents a fairly insignificant amount of the fuel being used. The army's trucks and other vehicles use much more.

One major use for fuel in Afghanistan and Iraq is air conditioning. According to "a former pentagon official" $20 Billion is the annual cost of air conditioning. Most of this cost being accounted for by the high cost of getting the fuel from Pakistan into Afghanistan by armed convoys. As long as there are troops there this fuel will be required

.

I SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049756)

The Army should be mindful of respecting Gaia, and go green, using solar power for this.
And, we don't want those nasty insurgents blowing up the solar arrays to disable the drones, so let's put them -- in space!

I mean, really, doesn't it make more sense to bankrupt ourselves investing in useful infrastructure rather than just squandering our wealth in blowing up some rocks and brown people. At least this way, we can accomplish both at the same time.

Re:I SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE! (1)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049862)

And while we are at it we can move Stanford to Massachusetts for you.

Re:I SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050238)

Fuck the Gaia shit. We live on a rock that has water. it doesn't care, it doesn't think.

How many insurgents are bombing military bases? It's the getting from point a to point B where most of the killing happens.

"I mean, really, doesn't it make more sense to bankrupt ourselves investing in useful infrastructure rather than just squandering our wealth in blowing up some rocks and brown people. "
Yes.

Re:I SUPPORT THIS INITIATIVE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37054988)

Unless you have any sensible ideas about colonizing Mars or Moon, please respect the Earth. It is the only self-sustainable environment we can live in at the moment. I would appreciate if you left it habitable for me and future generations. Thank you.

A shark logo? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049822)

A few lines that were mildly amusing from some old flick, and everybody gets the idea that it's a friggin scream so you'd better think it's a friggin scream too. You'd also better turn it into a meme and repeat it endlessly, just to reassure yourself that you're one of us. A shark logo. Sheesh! The only thing more annoying than this is the Monty Python repetition, and the fact that it's even got a damn programming language named after it.

Re:A shark logo? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049996)

On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.

In the last decade (2)

nimbius (983462) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049864)

'1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.'

if you think thats bad, check out the death toll related to soldiers trying to deliver gasoline to the united states.
I cant see lasers helping us anytime soon.

Re:In the last decade (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050250)

we don't get oil from the mid-east. Unless there is some action going in in Canada I'm not aware of?

Re:In the last decade (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050600)

the oil market is global; one of the reasons we maim and kill in the middle east is to control influences on that market

Re:In the last decade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37052152)

You mean you haven't heard of Canadian Bacon [imdb.com] ?

On a more serious note, this tech is the precursor to laser ablation being used for rocketry [nextbigfuture.com] . Funding has to come from somewhere.

This sounds well thought-out... (1)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049868)

The Military's chief means of recon can now be brought down by an errant Frisbee. Splendid idea.

Does weather play a factor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37049968)

So what happens if it's foggy/cloudy or it's raining? Doesn't that further disperse the beam or even block it?

Bullshit (1)

dcollins (135727) | more than 3 years ago | (#37049972)

FTA: "Do you know how many people have died delivering gasoline?" said Tom Nugent, president and co-founder of LaserMotive, a Kent, Wash.-based company looking to replace fossil fuels with laser power. The answer to Nugent's question? Nearly 1,000 soldiers in the last decade. And that's why Nugent wants to drastically reduce the need for delivering fossil fuels. His company's approach could save lives."

Total snake-oil bait-and-switch bullshit. There is absolutely nothing in the article to suggest how this would cut fuel deliveries or save transporter's lives in any way. Fuel still needs to be delivered to the ground-based emitter units. Probably more, even (to whatever degree it's less efficient than a connected gasoline engine.)

FTA: "The beam emitter is located at a ground-based unit and operated by a person, who could control it from the same location or remotely from an entirely different place altogether."

Re:Bullshit (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050268)

Maybe this is why the military is going solar?

Re:Bullshit (1)

MWYankee (670656) | more than 3 years ago | (#37061400)

"The operator uses the machine to fire the laser beam at a photovoltaic collector located on an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV), small plane or helicopter. The current range of the system is about a kilometer." I suspect if those tankers only had to go a kilometer, not as many of the soldiers would have died.

Orbital launch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37050030)

One day, when we're able to sustain powerful enough coherent beams, we'll launch stuff into orbit using lasers. A reaction mass (hydrogen, water, etc.) heated by photons from ground facilities will propel vehicles to orbit. Removing the oxidizer from the propellent mass fraction will vastly improve launch economics. That is how the large scale migration off Earth will begin.

Re:Orbital launch (1)

shugah (881805) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052528)

Launching stuff into orbit is great, but why would humans want to migrate off of earth? Migrate to where? Orbital communities? The moon? Mars? Certainly you can't be suggesting migration to other stars, as the closest ones with potentially habitable planets are anywhere from 20 - 40 million light years away.

Ridiculous (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37050154)

I don't even have to read the article - in fact, I'm not going to bother - to know this is ridiculous as a way of saving fuel although it could help a drone flying high above the laser in a circle to stay aloft longer (of course, about all that drone could report back is, "I have no idea where the enemy is, but yup, the laser is still there").

This is just another excuse for some contractor to get millions from the government to create yet another program that will never result in any useful tech worth the money invested. It never intends to be. It's just another boondoogle to fleece the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, the military brass who got the project approved under their command will themselves make a hefty bribe out of this in either money under the table or in a "job" in the private sector after they retire (a job where they mainly stay home playing golf).

So sick of crappy pop science. (1)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050158)

Someone already said it, and I'll say it again: WHERE DOES THE LASER ENERGY COME FROM?
I am *so* sick of this sort of lazy, pathetic science reporting.

How to be a popular science reporter in three easy steps:

Step 1: start by describing a serious real-world issue.
Step 2: write a bridge that makes a mockery of the laws of physics to:
Step 3: describe minor scientific result which has nothing to do with Step 1.

You can try this at home!

"Millions of people in the world are malnourished. But perhaps that can all change, with the help of astronomers who have discovered amino acids -- the building blocks of delicious protein -- in the asteroid belt!"

"Automobile crashes kill thousands of people in the U.S. every year. In this year's IEEE annual meeting, engineers describe new progress in using carbon nanotubes as part of semiconductor circuits. These could eventually lead to faster, more reliable electronic circuitry in many fields, including crash sensors in cars."

"The promise of nuclear energy is clear, but the problem of long-term waste disposal has not yet been solved. The long-half-lives of radioactive waste means it remains lethal for centuries. In this week's Journal of Cosmology, theoretical physicists describe how, by rapidly orbiting a black hole, the flow of time can be made to apparently stretch or contract. So perhaps those centuries won't be so long after all!

Yes, I realize that in this case, it's the business owner who's drawing the ridiculous parallel, and he's doing it to attract military funding to his no-name little project. But the story's reporter just takes him at his word, and doesn't ask even the most basic critical questions. ARGH!

Re:So sick of crappy pop science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37052350)

energy for the lasers? easy. wave energy from a SHARK TANK. guess where we mount the lasers...

it's a matter of efficiency (1)

student(war) (1996956) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050220)

An aircraft that runs on fuel has to carry said fuel, therefore requiring more fuel to carry the fuel itself. Even if the laser is powered by an base generator running on fuel, it will save fuel by removing the power cost of carrying the fuel on board the aircraft. Also the laser allows powering the aircraft with out having to land. That will eliminate many takeoffs which are the most fuel expensive part of the average flight. And the on base generator could run on far lower grades of fuel than JP5 saving more money. A on base generator, as opposed to an aircraft engine, also will optimized for efficiency instead of weight. Finally, imagine running this off a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. That would have massive fuel savings. Food for thought.

Re:it's a matter of efficiency (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052438)

That only holds true if the process of converting the original fuel source into radiation (what a laser is) and BACK into useful energy is more efficient than carrying kerosine with it in flight.

So in principle it could save energy, in reality, modern lasers are incredibly inefficient when shooting through the atmosphere of a room in a test lab, let alone several kilometers of open atmosphere ... in the desert ... where its full of dust ... and THEN converting it back into useful energy ... which is extremely inefficient as well.

So from a practical perspective, this will simply never work. The laws of physics don't change just because this guy wants to sell a product. If they can get 50% efficiency out of this in a short range outdoor test I'd be amazed. The atmosphere makes this idea silly, even if you ignore all the inefficiencies in our current technologies for doing what they want to do (which is in no way new, god knows how many times I've seen something powered by lasers on national geographic ... of course its always this tiny little thing that can hardly carry itself, let alone anything else ... in a dark room ... with no particles in the air ... operating over a range of less than 10 meters.

New insurgent strategy (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050234)

Sit at home, wait until it gets cloudy, then attack.

Gasoline? (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050292)

The US military does not use gasoline, so I doubt "1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations".

The US military standardized on JP-8 in 1990 as a replacement for diesel and gasoline, while the US Navy uses JP-5 for fuel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP-8 [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP-5 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Gasoline? (1)

quenda (644621) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052130)

The US military does not use gasoline, so I doubt "1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations".

The UAVs do indeed run on gasoline, though I'd assume the 1000 number includes all petroleum fuels.
It is a bit disappointing, since the Predator is made by General Atomics, who do not live up to their name.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotax_914 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Gasoline? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052440)

Those are converted to kerosine, i.e. JP-8, like everything else.

They switched to a single fuel for everything a long time ago.

You know... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 3 years ago | (#37050296)

...if you remove the soldiers, there's no need to ship in fuel.

yea, that makes sense (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 3 years ago | (#37051158)

It is interesting to hear that the military has a plentiful and easily transportable source of power for the lasers, because otherwise it would be insane to convert the energy to laser power and then back to something else (presumably electricity) and take the efficiency loss hit at each step. Now if they would just let the American public have access to that free energy rather than keep it to themselves and Area 51 then we could power the country without the need for foreign oil and get our noses out of the mid-east. Of course, if we did that then Haliburton stock would go down in price, so it will never happen. So we just keep sending American lives over there to be wasted.

Typical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37052002)

Why develop laser-powered cars when you can power military machines?
Why build a better world when you can go around and destroy it?

Honestly, who here is surprised by this sense of priority when it comes to the US?

USA: we all hate you, but we aren't all out to get you. Now stop the paranoia, grow up, and develop useful technology instead of stuff that can destroy other things. Maybe if you built stuff people could use you'd get out of the recession. Unless maybe you don't care about being hit by the recession as long as everybody else is hit harder, which is why you'd sooner destroy them than build things for yourselves. I actually wouldn't put it past you. You'd have no problem living in a pile of shit as long as people in other countries live in piles of worse quality shit.

But if you really want to bankrupt yourselves developing destruction machines, go ahead. I'll be laughing when you can't afford to pay anyone to operate the expensive drones.

"iraq will rebuild with its own oil profits" (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 3 years ago | (#37052234)

why do people lie about war so much?

isn't it time they got out of those places then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37052654)

if fuel is a problem to supply a war, don't wage war there. Bin Laden is dead, send your troops home! You may want to ask a german soldier if he'd invade Russia again with their scorched earth defense, if you can find one who is still alive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scorched_earth

In the last decade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37053168)

many times 1000 ordinary people were killed by soldiers who had business being there in the first place.

oh my fucking god (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37053272)

"Modern militaries depend on fuel. Nearly 80 percent of the supplies delivered to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan consist of fuel, and it's no surprise that those military convoys are frequently the targets of insurgents. In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.
 
Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday August 10, @05:25PM

Previous story:

Wall Street: Software More Valuable Than Oil

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday August 10, @04:58PM

And then, samzenpus disappeared in a puff of logic.

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