Unmanned vehicle (UxV) news

In no particular order…

From a Spanish University press release: EU project builds artificial brain for robots (courtesy Kurzweil)

Scientists in Spain have achieved a giant leap for robotkind by building the first artificial cerebellum to help them interact with humans. The cerebellum is the portion of the brain that controls motor functions.

The project will now implant the man-made cerebellum into a robot so as to make its movements and interaction with humans more natural. The overall goal is to incorporate the cerebellum into a robot designed by the German Aerospace Centre in two year’s time. The researchers hope that their work will also result in clues on how to treat cognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s

David Axe reported a few months ago the Marines wanted a drone with lethal and non-lethal capabilities to surprise capabilities to “take the fight to anti-Iraqi forces in areas where they currently perceive sanctuary.”

The concept is to take an existing “Tier II” medium-size drone in the vein of the 10-foot-wingspan Boeing/InSitu Scan Eagle, and fit it with two 40-millimeter grenade launchers, two green-laser dazzlers and a focused sound device similar to the Long-Range Acoustic Device manufactured by American Technology Corporation. This suite would give Marine operators “escalation of force options,” according to the briefing.

In other words, the drone would be able to first warn off suspected insurgents by beaming a verbal message in Arabic. If the suspects don’t disperse, the drone can dial up the intensity of its sound broadcast, causing pain and disorientation. If that doesn’t work, there are the laser dazzlers, which can cause temporary blindness from up to a mile away. If, after all of this, the suspects are still behaving threateningly, the drone can fire its grenade launchers.

The Israelis are exploring automated perimeter systems. These autonomous robot snipers would be armed with 0.5 caliber machine guns along the Gaza border fence. As Noah Shachtman reported,

The nearly $4-million system is supposed to be completed by the end of the summer.  “But the Israeli government has already authorized IDF Southern Command to begin operating parts of the system in response to the recent surge in violence emanating from the terror-infested strip.”

It’s all part of a larger plan to “wag[e] no-signature warfare along its border areas. It obviates the need to dispatch infantry to intercept intruders or to respond to probing maneuvers by enemy squads.”

Which may sound like a good idea.  But Haninah Levine says the tech ignores the lessons of last summer’s war in Lebanon.  The Winograd Commission, appointed to investigate the conflict, “calls ‘no-signature warfare’ by its real name,” he says: “‘withdrawal of soldiers and military targets from positions to which [the enemy] can penetrate with relative ease,’ and identifies this strategy as a major component in the IDF’s failures in the lead-up to the Second Lebanon War.”

“No signature warfare”. I’ll have to remember that. Obvious limitations are, fortunately, already being discussed, as Noah’s article quotes from Defense News:

The problem is not that the technology fails: it’s that the technology does not solve the problems which the conditions of engagement create. Along the Lebanese border, the problem was that the rules of engagement allowed the IDF to fire only if attacked by Hezbollah: the electronic fence therefore proved useless, since alarms were regularly ignored even when the Israelis knew that they indicated Hezbollah was preparing an attack.

Along the Gaza fence, the rules of engagement are much more aggressive, but the Palestinians will still probably try to “train” the IDF to ignore the system’s alarms by sending unarmed civilians towards the fence. The statement that “the technology here is not as important as the need to evaluate each potential threat on a case by case basis” is as true from a military point of view as it is from a human-rights point of view. And, by the way, the only known case of Palestinians kidnapping an Israeli soldier along the Gaza fence since the disengagement took place when the Palestinians emerged from a tunnel well behind the IDF lines – a tactic which this system would do nothing to thwart.”

India is planning on using a bipedal robot, SmartNav, to explore the moon for that country’s planned 2011 moon launch. (story from Kurzweil)

Malaysia will debut its first UAV at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA 07) exhibition as well as host a UAV conference. (courtesy WepsTrade list)

And, finally, friend David Isenberg wrote an article on autonomous warbots that worth reading at Asia Times.