It is easy to confuse the current geopolitical situation with that of the 1980s. The United States and Russia each accuse the other of interfering in domestic affairs. Russia has annexed territory over U.S. objections, raising concerns about military conflict. As during the Cold War after World War II, nations are developing and building weapons based on advanced technology. During the Cold War, the weapon of choice was nuclear missiles; today it's software, whether its used for attacking computer systems or targets in the real world.
The United States Department of Defense announced it is offering grants to build bat-like drones that can be powered by lasers as part of its Defense Enterprise Science Initiative. The opportunity is open to submissions through Feb. 28 as the Pentagon looks for emerging technology that can help it build "new paradigms for autonomous flight, with a focus on highly-maneuverable platforms and algorithms for flight control and decision making." In a Broad Agency Announcement adding detail as to what the Department of Defense is seeking through its grant, the announcement invokes bats and flying insects as inspiration for the project. "The biological study of agile organisms such as bats and flying insects has yielded new insights into complex flight kinematics of systems with a large number of degrees of freedom, and the use of multi-functional flight surface materials," the announcement reads. The description goes on to note that advances in technology--including improvements in sensors and miniaturization of powerful computing processors--as well as improvements of flight control algorithms should enable the creation of an autonomous drone that would operate akin to a free-flying creature like a bat.
The state firefighting service of California collaborated with a unit of California Air National Guard and deployed military wartime drones in order to receive real time photos and videos of the massive wildfire which spread across the area. According to a report by USA Today, this is only the third time such collaboration had taken place. The Reaper MQ-9, operated by the 163d Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base in the Riverside County, will fly five miles above and transmit relevant information to commanders on the ground. This also includes information about spot-fire detection. Scott McLean, Deputy Chief of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said, "It's out of the way."
South Korea planned to introduce a new counter to North Korea's burgeoning nuclear weapons program: drones. South Korean news wire agency Yonhap reported Tuesday that the nation planned to roll out a new weaponized drone unit next year. "The Army plans to set up a special organization to lead the development of dronebots, establish a standard platform and expand the dronebot program by function," an Army official told Yonhap, asking not be named because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter. "To begin with, we will launch a dronebot combat unit next year and use it as a'game changer' in warfare." The drones primary function will be for surveillance -- North Korea has launched a number of ballistic missile tests this year and many of them came without warning.
Sally Jones, a former punk rocker from Kent, United Kingdom, who gained notoriety as "Mrs Terror" after joining the Islamic State group (also called ISIS), was reportedly killed in a United States drone strike along with her 12-year old son Jojo in Syria as she tried to escape Raqqa, the Sun reported. Though Whitehall sources confirmed reports that Jones was killed, according to the Guardian, the Pentagon was unable to confirm the news. Jones collected another nickname -- White Widow --after Hussain was killed by a U.S. army drone in IS group capital of Raqqa in 2015. Metro reported that in a Twitter post after Hussain's death, Jones claimed she was "proud my husband was killed by the biggest enemy of Allah, may Allah be pleased with him."
Advantages of such weapons were discussed in a New York Times article published last year, which stated that speed and precision of the novel weapons could not be matched by humans. The official stance of the United States on such weapons, was discussed at the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) Informal Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems held in 2016 in Geneva, where the U.S. said that "appropriate levels" of human approval was necessary for any engagement of autonomous weapons that involved lethal force. In 2015, numerous scientists and experts signed an open letter that warned that developing such intelligent weapons could set off a global arms race. A similar letter, urging the United Nations to ban killer robots or lethal autonomous weapons, was signed by world's top artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics companies in the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) held in Melbourne in August.
The memo cited a classified report, "DJI UAS Technology Threat and User Vulnerabilities," and a U.S. Navy memo, "Operational Risks with Regards to DJI Family of Products." The rule also applies to other items from the company, including flight computers, cameras, radios, batteries, speed controllers, GPS units, handheld control stations, and devices with DJI software applications installed. "We can confirm that guidance was issued," the U.S. Army told International Business Times on Tuesday, "however, we are currently reviewing the guidance and cannot comment further at this time." Others have expressed privacy concerns regarding data collection, as reports claimed DJI shared information with Chinese authorities, a claim the company has disputed.
The Army Aviation Engineering Directorate has issued over 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for DJI products in support of multiple organisations with a variety of mission sets. The Army ordered its units to halt the use of DJI products, including all of the company's unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The Department of the Army memo even reports that they have'issued over 300 separate Airworthiness Releases for DJI products in support of multiple organizations with a variety of mission sets.' Others have expressed privacy concerns regarding data collection, as reports claimed DJI shared information with Chinese authorities.
"The armed pro-regime Shaheed-129 UAV was shot down by a U.S. F-15E Strike Eagle at approximately 12:30 a.m. Carla Babb, the Pentagon correspondent for Voice of America (VOA) tweeted Tuesday saying the sources have confirmed that the Iranian-made drone shot down by the U.S. fighter jet was being operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday it would exert new control over the skies of western Syria in response to the downing of a Syrian fighter jet by the U.S. Air Force on Sunday, reports said. "From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any airborne objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets," CNN reported citing the Defense Ministry statement. The U.S. military has established a roughly 50-kilometer "deconfliction" ring around al-Tanf and has warned the pro-Assad forces -- through a Russian deconfliction channel -- that movement within the zone could be considered hostile and the Iranian drone was outside that deconfliction area when it was shot down, the Washington Post reported citing a U.S. defense official.
The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which is designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles, is being deployed in Seongju in order to protect South Korea from Pyongyang's growing threats. "It was confirmed that (the craft) took photos of the THAAD site in Seongju," a South Korean defense official told reporters, adding that the distance between the border and the zone in North Gyeongsang Province is around 168 miles. A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. "The THAAD defensive missile system is critical to protecting South Koreans from Kim Jong Un's arsenal," U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said in a statement last week.