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Almost 1 In 3 US Warplanes Is a Drone

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the skynet-approved dept.

The Military 328

parallel_prankster writes "A recent Congressional Research Service report, titled U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems, looks at the more-prominent role being played by drones. In 2005, drones made up just 5 percent of the military's aircraft. Today one in three American military aircraft is a drone. The upsides of drones are that they are cheaper and safer — the military spent 92% of the aircraft procurement money on manned aircraft. The downside — they're bandwidth hogs: a single Global Hawk drone requires 500 megabytes per second worth of bandwidth, the report finds, which is 500 percent of the total bandwidth of the entire U.S. military used during the 1991 Gulf War."

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328 comments

first post! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650464)

posted remotely by a drone...

1 in 3 (2)

noobermin (1950642) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650506)

Does the statistic also represent kind of how slashdot is? Only 1 in 3 "first post" comments are actually funny? I'd expect even less...

Re:1 in 3 (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650706)

The first post should just be automatically deleted.

Re:1 in 3 (2)

Torfbolt (791759) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650860)

Which makes the second post to first post. Complete induction...

Re:1 in 3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650872)

Wrong: A "post removed" post would be the first post every time defeating first posters.

Re:1 in 3 (1)

oreiasecaman (2466136) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651014)

...but then the second post would become the first, and so it would be deleted too! no one would post anymore :)

Re:1 in 3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651134)

And nothing of value was lost

That's a ton of bandwidth (1)

nirgle (554262) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650488)

Sort of a Netflix in the sky?

Re:That's a ton of bandwidth (3, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650986)

You could run Netflix quite comfortably on 1/100th of that!

That's 500 megabytes per second, or roughly 4x the bandwidth of a GigE connection! Sounds to me like they're doing something seriously wrong, even if you assume they're receiving multiple hi-res live video streams simultaneously from the drones. Maybe the video isn't compressed at all?

Re:That's a ton of bandwidth (4, Insightful)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651132)

Or it isn't just video, but a stream from a complete sensor package. Not to mention the cameras they have deliver much higher resolution video than the HD streamed on Netflix (or at least I'd hope).

Re:That's a ton of bandwidth (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651218)

What sensors could they have that could require more bandwidth than a video camera? Most would require much less - for one thing radar and IR aren't in color, and that's assuming the most asinine possible way of transferring the data.

Re:That's a ton of bandwidth (4, Interesting)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651240)

It's neither 500 megabytes/s nor even 500 megabits/s. There is no link capability in the U.S. space communications systems, or even anywhere, that could handle that reliably from just one drone, never mind multiple drones at the same time. That drone would need a big effing antenna to push that much data over a couple dozen thousand kilometers to the space segment. Let's get real: do the /. editors have no sense of magnitude at all?!

Is this a legitimate comparison? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650496)

Is this a legitimate comparison?

I mean, Lego is reportedly [businessweek.com] the world's #1 tire manufacturer, just based on the number of tires it produces, but it's not exactly an automotive powerhouse.

Re:Is this a legitimate comparison? (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650558)

I'd say it's only a legitimate comparison if drones and manned aircraft were used in comparable roles. Can a single drone take the place of a single manned plane for a given mission? In some cases yes, in other cases you may need 3 drones to take the place of a single fighter jet - especially in combat conditions.

Sort of like with Legos... how many Lego tires would you need to replace a single Goodyear on a car? Adjust for that and you get a more useful comparison.

Re:Is this a legitimate comparison? (4, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651396)

I am not sure that any amount of Lego tires would fit onto a full-sized car. People, do not replace your spare with a trunk full of Lego ones.

Re:Is this a legitimate comparison? (2)

dwillden (521345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650702)

Agreed. In fact why don't we talk about a comparison of processor speeds between 1991 and today?
From some random tech site giving a history of processors:

June 1991 Intel 486 introduced Clock speed: 50 MHz Number of transistors: 1,200,000

vs

Take your pick of quad or eigjt-core processors running at around 3.3 GHz.

What other useless comparisons can we use?

Re:Is this a legitimate comparison? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651020)

That's surprising. Tires only come in a minority of LEGO kits and pretty much never wear out.

500 megabytes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650498)

Somebody is smoking crack.

Re:500 megabytes? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650566)

Somebody is smoking crack.

Relax. It's probably megaBITS. Most people get that confused.

Distinction without... (2)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650684)

Relax. It's probably megaBITS. Most people get that confused.

Which is still a metric shitload.

It must be streaming all that uncompressed video back to its pilot that costs so much bandwidth.

Re:Distinction without... (2)

EvilMonkeySlayer (826044) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651070)

If you're using it as a surveillance platform you probably don't want your video to be compressed (assuming lossy compression), last thing you want is to misidentify some vehicle as military target, drop a bomb or fire a hellfire missile at the thing only to discover it was really a civilian vehicle misidentified because of blockiness introduced by the video compression.

I'll assume they mean megabits too, that makes more sense. The cameras on something like a predator drone are quite probably very high resolution and there is more than one of them.

Re:500 megabytes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650852)

Yeah, submission sauce comes from the bottom of this page: www .globalsecurity. org/space/systems/bandwidth. HTM

Mbps = bits
MBps = bytes

This has to be the most common frustrating gap in knowledge for IT ppl from top to bottom of skill. The kinda thing a cs teacher should write on the board at the beginning of the semester, saying, "if you remember nothing else from my class..."

Re:500 megabytes? (1)

jschultz410 (583092) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650930)

Agree. There is no way in hell one drone needs anywhere near that kind of bandwidth. Even 500 Mb/s is incredible. If it turns out 500 Mb/s is accurate, then whoever the contractor is that designed this thing needs to be fired pronto.

Re:500 megabytes? (2)

localman57 (1340533) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651312)

The thing is, I think we're all assuming they mean 500 Mb/s of radio bandwidth. If they're storing the data internally on hard drives or other media, and brining it back, that may be a bit different. Still, the data needs to be stored and processed to be useful, which means it is being processed somewhere. My guess is that the drones have some level of radio bandwidth for real-time operation, and then also are capable of brining back higher resolution information for post-processing.

Obviously military hardware is going to be better than the cisco I just bought for my cable modem, but given I have trouble actually getting sustained 150Mbps 12 feet away through clear air from fixed antennas with no restrictions for weight or power consumption, I have serious doubts about the viability of including a reliable 500Mbps radio link into a moving drone many miles away through bad weather.

Nerds for t3h win! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650514)

In your face super hero fighter jocks! We can build something that the lowly non-coms can fly. Now excuse me while I read up on some more control theory. Things are going to get interesting..

Re:Nerds for t3h win! (4, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650618)

Actually, one needs to be a commissioned officer, Captain last time I checked to be flying a drone (for the Air Force at least).

Re:Nerds for t3h win! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650948)

(I wrote the previous post)

I did not believe this at first but looked it up. Now days they use officers. Initially they did allow non-comms to pilot drones, but a quick google search indicates that they no longer do this. They changed the practices so that now it is officers. I am kind of curious now what was going on to make that change.

Re:Nerds for t3h win! (2)

Phrogman (80473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651200)

Probably pilots of regular aircraft resenting having the drones piloted by lowly "non-comms". After all the regular pilots are seemingly on the way out and thus its likely that many are being converted over to drone piloting. RHIP

Re:Nerds for t3h win! (4, Insightful)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651264)

Probably pilots of regular aircraft resenting having the drones piloted by lowly "non-comms". After all the regular pilots are seemingly on the way out and thus its likely that many are being converted over to drone piloting. RHIP

Also when they started arming the drones. Originally they were scout-only.

Private for the win! (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651328)

Actually, most drones are flow by non-coms, because most drones (by numbers) are back-pack squad level drones. Basically, fancy model RC controlled planes allowing soldiers to see over the hill.

It needs what??? (3, Interesting)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650518)

500MB/s? I just... wow. How? How do you get 1/2 GB/s per drone from the other side of the world? Presumably they don't care about latency!

Re:It needs what??? (2)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650588)

I'm thinking someone got confused by the 600MHz bandwidth of the SAR/GMTI sensor package.

Re:It needs what??? (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650676)

Either that, or they accidentally capitalized the "B" in "Mb" somewhere.

Re:It needs what??? (5, Informative)

PlaneShaper (1830294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650966)

On page 17 of the actual report (page 22 of the PDF file), it says "a single Global Hawk...'requires 500Mbps bandwidth...'" So yes, somewhere between there and the Wired story, someone miscapitalized the B. That statistic is cited within the report as being from the Department of the Navy.

Re:It needs what??? (5, Informative)

Spritzer (950539) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650728)

Some quick searching found this.
From THIS [irconnect.com] article:

To demonstrate the concept, Northrop Grumman's test team developed and installed on Global Hawk a new 1.4 terabyte (1500 gigabyte) computer server capable of storing all of the imagery and sensor data recorded during a complete Global Hawk mission.

With a 42 hour mission time that computes to just under 10MB/s or approximately 80Mb/s bandwidth. That sounds more reasonable.

Re:It needs what??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650612)

The control centers are portable modules. You can probably stow two or five drone control centers inside one of those big old cargo planes as well as the drones they are supposed to control and do the whole recon from 30,000 feet and safely outside missile range.

Re:It needs what??? (2, Informative)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650638)

It doesn't get to the other side of the world. Drones are controlled from reasonably close by, and I would suspect they're fairly autonomous during flight. That drone brought down near the Iraq border was downed by spoofing GPS coordinates, telling it it was back at base and should land. Besides, the Global Hawk is a surveillance drone, so I would suspect 500MB/s is downstream.

Plus, you're forgetting that the military always get the cool toys first. 500MB/s to the user will come to us regular Joe's eventually.

Why spread propaganda? (1, Interesting)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650732)

There has been no proof that the drone that Iran 'acquired' was brought down by spoofing...

Re:Why spread propaganda? (3, Informative)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650834)

Yes, sorry. I don't have my Press hat on today. Please amend my post to have the word "Alleged" in the appropriate places.

Saying that, I didn't notice anyone saying that this wasn't the case either[dramatic ellipsis]

Re:It needs what??? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650898)

Besides, the Global Hawk is a surveillance drone, so I would suspect 500MB/s is downstream.

Most of it is indeed downstream. If you figure one standard definition camera on board, and you want to minimize compression artifacts but use one of the required NATO-approved codecs, you're looking at 12kb to 60kb per frame. When you consider that you need to record full frame rate, again, let us assume 30fps per NTSC (or ATSC's 480p) then you're looking at (1s)(30f)(12kb)=360kbps to (1s)(30f)(60kb)(1800kbps). Now, consider that this is the US military, and they demand the highest quality with minimal collateral damages, and each drone has not one camera but many cameras, and they do not store the data on board for security reasons, you can begin to appreciate just how easy it becomes to hit that 500mbps mark. They have cameras for the targeting system, for forward view, and redundant cameras uses for additional perspectives, and the video isn't used just for hunting and killing, but to supervise the pilots to ensure that they are performing their mission and not carrying out their own agenda based on prejudice (such as a Muslim-hating redneck targeting Muslims for fun, or a traitor not targeting actual criminals/terrorists/hostiles) you might better understand why so much bandwidth is needed. It is possible to compress the video more highly, but there are codecs which must be used for multiple logistics and legal reasons, and even more efficient codecs won't get down the bandwidth all that much, really, because these applications require a lot more key frames than your typical CCTV situation. Also, because of latency, as much of the data as possible has to be maintained in the analog realm (IP video lags very badly and this application requires response to be as realtime as possible - remember, actual pilots fly most of these things) or a raw/PCM digital stream, with A/D conversion or digital encoding used for transmission for security and bandwidth concerns, and for the recording (recorded remotely - again, security concerns).

Now, knowing all of that - it's a good thing that AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast aren't their provider, because they'd overrun their bandwidth cap in under a day with just one drone. ;)

Re:It needs what??? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650920)

No, no they are not. All the USAF drones are controlled from Nevada.

Re:It needs what??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650978)

Other branches have drones as well

Re:It needs what??? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651050)

True but the majority are USAF and AFAIK none of the drones are controlled from the field (though they can get a video downlink in the field).

Re:It needs what??? (1)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651380)

No, no they are not. All the USAF drones are controlled from Nevada.

The drone program would pay for itself if they installed the control rooms in Circus Circus and let kids fly them for quarters. Kill a terrorist, get a plush stuffed animal!

Re:It needs what??? (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650950)

Drones are controlled from reasonably close by, and I would suspect they're fairly autonomous during flight.

That's not correct. While there are some types of small autonomous aircraft used directly by troops, most of the drones are piloted from locations in the continental US, like Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

These remotely controlled planes can hover in the air 24 hours at a time, collecting intelligence or carrying out a strike in Afghanistan.

But the pilots are thousands of miles away, sitting in front of a bank of computer screens. And that distance, which is the strength of the program, has also created unique challenges.

http://www.npr.org/2011/11/29/142858358/drone-pilots-the-future-of-aerial-warfare [npr.org]

Re:It needs what??? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651136)

When you say "pilot" you don't mean that in the "control the aircraft directly" sense of the word as, say, a fighter pilot would control a jet. I envision a guy with a laptop typing in commands at a prompt to instruct the aircraft to fly itself to a specific location and perform a specific action autonomously, and report back with the data.

Re:It needs what??? (1)

muon-catalyzed (2483394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651002)

downed by spoofing GPS coordinates

I doubt that, more likely it simply malfunctioned, if they were that smart, why not just EMP the drone? Or do they did just that?

Re:It needs what??? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651182)

Maybe those DARPA guys have a directional EMP device in the basement somewhere. However, I can't help but think that anything powerful enough to down a craft several thousand feet in the air would cause significant collateral damage, as well as pull the fillings out of the operator's jaw.

Re:It needs what??? (2)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651030)

Plus, you're forgetting that the military always get the cool toys first. 500MB/s to the user will come to us regular Joe's eventually.

From whom? Surely not one of the existing ISP's in my area. Oh wait. You probably mean a 500MB cap will come to us regular Joe's. /snark

Re:It needs what??? (4, Informative)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651350)

Mod my parent post down, please. It's pretty much all factually inaccurate and corrected in responses (which should be modded up). To summarise, USAF drones are controlled from Nevada and not close by, Wikipedia states sensor packages report back 50Mb/s of data to local ground forces, or the operator by satellite, and there is no evidence of the UAV aquired by IraN being downed by GPS spoofing.

Thanks to those posting corrections.

Re:It needs what??? (4, Informative)

neyla (2455118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650692)

It's utter bullshit offcourse. Some journalist probably mistook frequency-used for data-transmitted or something along those lines.

Flight-data (speed, position, velocity, status) is a tiny trickle of data, the only data that are significant is when transmitting live-video, which not all drones do 100% of the time. And even when they do, it's not 500MB/s. Full-HD-video from a blueray-player is on the order of 35 megabit/second, thus 500 MB/s would be the equivalent of streaming around 100 HD-cameras in blueray-quality-video.

That's not what's happening. The number is bullshit.

Re:It needs what??? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650886)

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] "The digital sensor data can be transmitted at up to 50 Mbit/s to a ground station in real time, either directly or through a communications satellite link."

Wish I'd read that before posting my other comment.

Re:It needs what??? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650984)

The Global Hawk is capable of carrying a 2,000 pound sensor suite. IR, SA radar with moving target indicator, optical, SIGINT, ELINT, and who knows what else. 500MB/s is not unbelievable when you account for all of that.

Re:It needs what??? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651106)

No that's still completely batshit crazy. People in this thread who have done the research are saying it's actually 50mbit which is sensible and believable.

Re:It needs what??? (1)

WillHirsch (2511496) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651052)

You might call the source [navy.mil] for this claim journalistic, but it is at least from within the military. Could the encryption of the transmitted data, or maybe massive redundancy, account for the size of the figure?

its 500 Mega-BITS-per-second (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650800)

from the arcticle, page 17 ...

"requires 500Mbps" ...

Re:It needs what??? (2)

asylumx (881307) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650918)

OP is incorrect, he paraphrased from here: http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/systems/bandwidth.htm [globalsecurity.org]

However, he translated 500Mbps (megaBITS per second) to megabytes per second. 500Mbps is actually closer to 62.5MB/s -- still a lot compared to residential bandwidth in the US, but not half a terabyte every second.

I couldn't tell you why OP didn't copy/paste, he's only a few words off from the original anyway.

great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650520)

If the military needs more bandwidth, they'll invest in new tech, so in a few years that tech will get to us and we'll get faster internets.

Re:great! (2)

BosstonesOwn (794949) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650586)

Yeah , then Verizon or AT&T will sell it as 5g and lower the caps even more producing an even more overly inflated bill, all while a senator tells us that this is needed because a truck has crashed in the internets tubes causing a backup of bits which are not being processed fast enough to fight the war on terror.

And it will only cost 45 Trillion to get the technology into the right peoples hands.

All joking now done, the cameras on those planes must be feeding extremely high def video back to the mothership to use that much bandwidth.

Re:great! (1)

neyla (2455118) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650814)

The number claimed is simply unrealistic, and must be a mistake.

full-HD as coming from a blueray-disc requires on the order of 35 megabits second. 500Mbytes/second is the same as 4000 megabit/second, or more than 100 times what a full-hd-movie coming rom a blueray-disc uses.

Yes there may be more than one camera. Yes it may be more than full-hd. But no, not more than *100* full-HD-cameras.

2 out of 3 US Workers (1, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650570)

are bandwidth-hogging drones. Eat your heart out US military.

Re:2 out of 3 US Workers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650960)

That means they need a data cap!

History's Detectives: Drones used since 1940s (4, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650606)

They ran a piece [pbs.org] last summer tracking down a 1940s drone. It had a new-fangled invention called a TV camera that weighed 100 pounds at that time. The operator had to be in line-of-sight.

Video streaming (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650610)

This accounts for most of the bandwidth.

The number in the article is indeed way high... not to say Global Hawk does not have some serious data output.

I work on NASA"s Global Hawk program, and used to work on many DOD ISR programs.

Bandwidth (1)

inhuman_4 (1294516) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650620)

How the hell can the manage 500MB/s? That is an insane amount. We can stream 720p with 5.1 audio over a 5mb/s connection. So what the hell are they using all that bandwidth for?

Clearly the military needs to invest some money in compression and/or greater automation in these things. 500MB/s should be enough for a wing of UAVs.

Re:Bandwidth (4, Insightful)

skovnymfe (1671822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650764)

I'm not sure where the submitter gets his 500MB/s from, but as others suggest it's probably 500Mb/s.

However, you might say 500Mb/s is still a tad much, however I have a good idea why it might be that high.

First, a drone typically doesn't have just a single camera. It'd be a bit of a waste to get cheap there really, when you can put three or four cameras per drone.

Second, I can imagine military regulations dictate that judging kill orders based on compressed live images from a shaky drone isn't good enough. Has to be a raw data stream to ensure the best possible information is available.

These are of course just my thoughts and I don't have any experience or insider knowledge to back them up with.

Re:Bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650894)

"Second, I can imagine military regulations dictate that judging kill orders based on compressed live images from a shaky drone isn't good enough."

Yeah sure douchebag

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0 [youtube.com]

Re:Bandwidth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650836)

Hmm let me see.

IR, UV, other EM spectrum, Radio waves, Radiation, MAD, Telemetry, RWR, Radar, just to name a few. All realtime and presumably high fidelity

Re:Bandwidth (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651038)

and your still not there -- unless they are morons and everything is completely uncompressed/raw frame - but even then i don't think you would hit 500MB/s

500% of the bandwith? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650634)

Breaking News! Modern technology uses more bandwidth than available 20 years ago! Film at 11.

They're comparing it to the time when 14.4 kbps modems were considered blazingly fast.

5 Steps to Internet Bliss (3, Funny)

Haileri$ (672536) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650642)

1. Convert your country to some un-American religion (try not worshipping money or something) 2. Pretend you have $hitloads of oil 3. Run around a lot in the wilderness wearing nothing but Gucci handbags so when they inevitably invade they have to chase you Benny Hill style with drones 4. Once your entire country has been upgraded to a 200 GB/second cloud to handle all the drones flying around fess up that the oil was a myth. 5. Download-pr0n heaven

Re:5 Steps to Internet Bliss (0)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650708)

1. Convert your country to some un-American religion (try not worshipping money or something)

Which "American" religion worships money? I think it's Environmentalism, but I'm not sure.

Re:5 Steps to Internet Bliss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650908)

Capitalism.

The obvious solution to the bandwidth problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650724)

...is to make the drones autonomous, possibly using some kind of AI. I hear there's some great research going on at a company called Cyberdyne Systems.

500MB/sec? (2)

jimicus (737525) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650734)

500MB/sec isn't right in a million years.

Blu-ray uses about 40megaBITS/second, and that includes audio as well as video. So if we were to say a couple of megabits/second for control (which is probably generous); that means each drone sends out the equivalent of over a hundred totally separate high-def video feeds each with 5.1 channel DTS surround sound.

Misleading Title (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650786)

aircraft != warplane

Asinine comparison (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650794)

which is 500 percent of the total bandwidth of the entire U.S. military used during the 1991 Gulf War.

As a Gulf War vet who worked with the communication network at the time, that "500 percent" metric is pointless. In 1991, we were still playing games on Commodore 64's. Hardly anything in our military inventory was networked, and what little was, was largely special-purpose point-to-point equipment. Is 5x the bandwidth of a pre-internet era war supposed to be impressive? Quick, tell us how much more bandwidth it was than we used in World War 2!

Re:Asinine comparison (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651010)

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a V2 loaded with reel-to-reel tapes and sent in the general direction of London...

Re:Asinine comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38651322)

to bad the tapes of that time were highly inflammable

Re:Asinine comparison (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651254)

looks like the record for ww2 for Morse code was 35 words per min.. split the difference (10 min to operate and 35 max) lets use average of ~23wm. 5 letters per word and average 3 bits per letter so 3*5*23= 345 bits per min per operator = 5.75 bps per operator

for 500MBs = 4,194,304,00 bps

so 500MBs is equivalent to ~729,444,174 radio operators from WW2.. which happens to be ~66x the number of people drafted for WW2.

sorry i couldn't find any stat on the number of radio operators active during WW2.. so i just deiced to run with the what it would take route.

AT&T/Verizon (2)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650812)

Sure hope they aren't on a at&t or Verizon data plan! LOL. The I.T. guy at our office says we use to much bandwith. I sent him this, said we don't use THAT much, so hush ;)

That's a good thing (1)

Donwulff (27374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650830)

Besides 500MB/s being slightly dubious... so what? They're reconnaissance planes, their primary purpose is gathering intelligence. So they're gathering it, at 500MB/s. So their downside is that they're good at what they're doing?
This would be an issue if we were told "They use 20% of the total available bandwidth for military applications per plane just to stay in air", but I do not believe this to be the case or we would be told that. So what exactly is the downside?

The problem with drones (2)

apcullen (2504324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650832)

Am I the only one waiting for our entire fleet of drones to be hacked and turned against us like in battlestar galactica

its 500 mega-BITS-per second !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650904)

How many "OMG 500MBps" posts do we need ?

its Mega-BITS ...

page 17 from the article clearly states Mbps... (and not MBps)

500MB/s ~ 4k resolution, 30 frames, uncompressed (2)

Big_Breaker (190457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38650932)

Global hawk is a high altitude, high resolution surveillance bird. It's like a drone version of the U2. I'm not surprised that it would generate HUGE amounts of data. They aren't spending tens of millions of those things to mount a web cam. Bandwidth for more pedestrian drones like the Reaper should be far lower.

I think the bandwidth and security solution will be high altitude relay planes/blimps over friendly territory so that signals can be line of sight in the air and then sent down to ground stations in friendly territory. That type of bandwidth is only problematic until it hits a terrestrial wire. At 40-50k feet line of sight is 200 miles to sea level and 400 miles for another high altitude airplane. By contrast geosynchronous orbits are 22,000 miles away and its a round trip. I guess it is possible to use LEO satellites but those are vulnerable in a way that GEO is not.

Line of sight signals from aircraft could be stronger and therefore harder to jam. Also the angle of the signal would be harder to duplicate and overwhelm from the ground. Also with multiple relay stations you'd have an alternate way to calcuate position like GPS but without the low power satellite constraints. Bonus points for one time pad encrypting the really sensitive stuff like controls. A 120GB SSD is a lot of unbreakable communication.

Bill Gates says, (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38650936)

500 MB/ should be enough for anyone!

They need an aerial tonnage measurement... (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651102)

The Navy uses displacement as a way to assess the "size" of their fleet....

Just numerically counting 2lb "drones" and comparing them to F-16s is not a terribly interesting statistic.

The Downside (4, Insightful)

kidcharles (908072) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651128)

The downside — they're bandwidth hogs: a single Global Hawk drone requires 500 megabytes per second worth of bandwidth, the report finds, which is 500 percent of the total bandwidth of the entire U.S. military used during the 1991 Gulf War.

I think the downside is that the drones are used in "secret" CIA wars, routinely kill civilians, have been used by the President for extra-judicial assassination of at least one American citizen, and are increasingly eyed for use in domestic airspace. I'd put their bandwidth usage pretty far down on the list of reasons to be concerned about drones.

Bandwidth used is 4k video (1)

ndege (12658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651298)

Wondering about the 500M per sec?

Take a look a the numbers for 4k video [forret.com].

Now, be sure to keep in mind that on such an aircraft, there is at least one visual light spectrum camera, and at least one high resolution thermal camera [wikipedia.org].

If I were the one laying out the specs for this bird, I might want to look a direction other than just facing forward. Maybe a couple of cameras? The 500Mb or 500MB doesn't seem unreasonable when trying to pull all that data from the aircraft real-time; even compressed.

The telemetry data is small by comparison, but what is the refresh rate of said telemetry data? 30Hz? 50Hz? And, how much telmetry data is being sent? Keep in mind all the other data...even including the most basic lat/long, heading, airspeed (IAS via multiple pitot tubes), engine data (temperatures at different points, fuel flows, pressures, etc).

Here is a photo of the flightdeck/cockpit of a Boeing 777 [plane-pictures.com]. Check out the cockpit of a C130 at night [jetpix.com]. Now, if instead of pushing all those sensor systems to a flightdeck on board, what if all that data has to be sent to the other side of the world?

Another [maybe flamebait] commenter suggested that the drone pilots operate in theater. From what I have read, the Airforce pilots the drones from Las Vegas [theatlantic.com]; "just minutes from the slot machines."

  <rant> What makes so many slashdoters completely underestimate the complexity of such a system? The average /. crowd these days seem to be quite egotistical to assume that they could "do it better". </rant>

Dumb (3, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651310)

That's like saying 3 out of 4 military assault vehicles is a jeep.

Or 3 out of 4 warships are tugboats.

Of course there are a lot of drones. They're cheap and practically disposable. They're unmanned because they go places where it's too dangerous to send a man.

God, I would have hoped we'd have more than just 1 in 3 military aircraft being drones. Aren't they the most effective weapon we have? Assuming by "effective" you mean "killing certain people with the least muss and fuss to your own".

How about this: "The majority of military aircraft are missiles."

Is the F35 still needed? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 2 years ago | (#38651332)

At $150M/plane can we afford a plane designed for yesterday's conflicts? UAVs are getting better and will soon surpass the capabilities of manned vehicles.

If the US had the F35 for the past 10 years would it have made a difference in the Iraq or Afghan wars? In the next 10 years where do we see it making a difference over the F18, F16, A10 or F15E?

The lifetime cost of the F35 is estimated at $1T.

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