• Unmanned Warfare

    Recharging UAVs by clinging to power lines

    I didn’t see this in this. The next time you see something flapping in the breeze on an overhead power line, squint a little harder. It may not be a plastic bag or the remnants of a party balloon, but a tiny spy plane stealing power from the line to recharge its batteries. (H/T Kurzweil.net)

  • Civil-Military Relations,  Private Military Companies,  Unmanned Warfare

    Somebody, Prove my theory

    Today is Veteran’s Day here in the United States and a good time to wonder something out loud. Actually, I’ve been saying this in meatspace for a while, but I don’t think I’ve put it on the blog yet. As you think about our country’s veterans, ask yourself how many veterans you actually know. It’s very likely that you, as a reader of this blog, know (or are) a veteran: you are reading what some call a milblog after all. Here’s my theory: more Americans know a mercenary, but don’t know it, than know a vet, adjusting for sheer numbers. In other words, contractors our "outside" in the public more…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Automation not a factor in ‘Robotic rampage’?

    From New Scientist Tech: A female soldier tried to free the shell, but another shell was accidentally fired, causing some rounds in the gun’s two near-full ammunition magazines to explode. The gun began firing again and swung in a circle, leaving nine soldiers dead and eleven wounded. Blogs and other online news sources have suggested the incident may be due to software problems, highlighting the danger of automated weapon systems. But Jim O’Halloran of defence publication Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence says the incident is more likely the result of a simple mechanical failure. Interesting, this emphasizes my point that the presence of automation has the power to changes the debate…

  • Counterinsurgency,  Psychological Struggle,  Unmanned Warfare

    Unintended Consequences of Armed Robots in Modern Conflict

    There is more on the robot killing in South Africa. A South African robotic cannon went out of control, killing nine, “immediately after technicians had finished repairing the weapon,” the Mail & Guardian reports. In light of this event, as well as Ron Arkin’s “ethical controls” on robots, and that I’m returning to the subject to finish a report, I re-opened a survey on unmanned systems in conflict, primarily ground vehicles. The survey is expanded with the addition of a few questions left out of the earlier iteration. If you filled out the survey before, you might be able to edit your previous answers. Click here for an informal survey on…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Implementation of ethical controls on robots

    Dr. Ron Arkin, who runs the Mobile Robot Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology, released his report “Governing the Lethal Behavior“. This article provides the basis, motivation, theory, and design recommendations for the implementation of an ethical control and reasoning system potentially suitable for constraining lethal actions in an autonomous robotic system so that they fall within the bounds prescribed by the Laws of War and Rules of Engagement. It is based upon extensions to existing deliberative/reactive autonomous robotic architectures, and includes recommendations for (1) post facto suppression of unethical behavior, (2) behavioral design that incorporates ethical constraints from the onset, (3) the use of affective functions as an…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Robot kills 9, injuries 14

    The South African National Defence force is asking whether a software glitch in an automated anti-aircraft cannon killed 9 and injured 14. Mangope told The Star that it “is assumed that there was a mechanical problem, which led to the accident. The gun, which was fully loaded, did not fire as it normally should have,” he said. “It appears as though the gun, which is computerised, jammed before there was some sort of explosion, and then it opened fire uncontrollably, killing and injuring the soldiers.” …in the 1990s the defence force’s acquisitions agency, Armscor, allocated project money on a year-by-year basis, meaning programmes were often rushed. “It would not surprise…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Privatization and Unmanned Systems

    Kent’s Imperative discusses the value of privatization and unmanned systems for geographic intelligence, or GEOINT (see Tanji for def’s of like terms). I agree with Kent on his points that privatization adds surge capacity (just as the airline industry does for strategic transport under federal law) and innovation. There are limits, as we both agree, but that’s for another post. Not so long (chronologically) but an eternity (in terms of privatization concepts) ago, the first generation of high resolution commercial space based imagery systems for intelligence came into existence…The very idea of private sector capabilities usurping the government monopoly on overhead systems was so unthinkable for many within the community that…

  • Counterinsurgency,  Psychological Struggle,  Unmanned Warfare

    Battle of the Minds: an interview with Major General Douglas Stone

    Walter Pincus in the Washington Post wrote about the Blogger Roundtable conference yesterday with Major General Doug Stone (transcript here). Motivated slightly by Pincus’s backhanded, but honest, comment yesterday on how none of the four bloggers attending, including MountainRunner, (out of 60 invited) on the call had as of yet blogged on the interview.  I had the opportunity to ask the General two questions. The first was on his thoughts of using unmanned systems in detainee operations. In the battle of minds, it is not surprising that he looked at robots as not as an opportunity to reduce human contact with detainees but to increase it. The second question was…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    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…