Cool stuff on the open frontier of technology, drone edition

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

Amazing things happening in the use of drones. Maybe only major powers have the capacity to conduct extensive drone operations. Think about bee-sized drones and drone swarms.

First, a small tangent. 4/13 – Wall Street Journal – What Children Learned From the Shared Family Phone – What I learned from the article is that almost half of households in the US do not have a landline.

That is up from around 27% back five years.  For the 25-34 age group, only around one-third have a landline.

4/22 – Press Enterprise – Inland agencies deputize drones for crime, rescues Four specific city police agencies in the Inland Empire (the area in San Bernardino county that is east of LA) are planning to start using drones in operations.

Verbally announced plans are to use them to find lost hikers, watch major traffic incidents or crime scenes from the air, and look in windows of cars or buildings of places where people are hiding during standoffs or shootouts.

Several other agencies are running test programs.

4/18 – – Are We Really Entering the Age of Drone Warfare – Author says the infrastructure needed to support drone operations as an effective fighting force will leave only a few major powers with capability to use them as an advanced military capacity.

Factors cited include:

*Effective use requires extensive training and experience. Even with the vast capacity of the US, human error is still the reported cause of 40% of crashes.

*Huge amount of heavily trained and experienced staff is needed to conduct operations. Even the US, Britain, and Germany are struggling to maintain staffing. It reportedly takes between 300 and 600 ground crew to conduct one high-end combat operations.

*An extensive technology infrastructure is needed, including a satellite network (price tag in the billions), beyond line of sight communications, ground control, and an intel infrastructure (people and data) that can process information in real time.

Even with the US force structure, network of trained staff, and constellation of satellites, we are only able to have two RQ-4 Global Hawk flights on combat operations at a time.

Interesting ideas, but the entire argument is based on conducting operations with equipment at the size and capacity of a Global Hawk or Reaper.

Local or nearby operation of a smaller UAV would require much less capacity.  See above articles about multiple local police agencies gearing up for UAV use.

5/19 – Mashable – New robot bee may soon be a spy’s secret weapon – Drone in development about the size of a 25 cent piece will be able to attach to a window, wall, or ceiling and stay put.

By using electrostatic charge to a foam disk, the drone can stay put while attached to the side or bottom of a surface. Energy to stay attached is several orders of magnitude less than hovering. Thus a mini-drone could stay in place for hours or days.

Imagine the impact of military or police agencies being able to place a microphone or camera for days at a time.

5/31 – Against Crony Capitalism – Military spending super creepy style. The Navy’s new drone swarm. – The Navy is working on having a swarm of drones work together. They could reconfigure their organization on the fly (so to speak) as some are lost or mission objectives change. I’m not sure how this would work in an attack but in a recon mission, this would be a great tool. Concept is based on overwhelming a defense or having enough drones survive to still complete the mission.

Current testing is of a swarm with 30 drones in it. Check out the link for a cool video.

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