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."
Science fiction has a funny habit of becoming science fact after enough time has passed. The wide-eyed wonder of children sitting cross-legged in front of the TV eventually becomes inspiration for incredible feats of engineering, or the means of our own destruction. The latest example of this phenomenon is a new, powered up exoskeleton the U.S. Army is testing, per Scout. There are tons of examples of this sort of thing in science fiction. It usually involves military personnel enhancing their combat capabilities with some manner of armor or exoskeleton.
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."
However, going by the official video, it doesn't seem to be equipped for flying long distances. Unlike diesel or petrol vehicles, battery-powered flying vehicles are equipped to fly less than an hour, also the thin frame doesn't give room to add much payload to the vehicle and also limits the number of rotors on the vehicle. But the concept can be scaled up and made capable of flying long distances and carrying bigger payloads. But it is not just the Russian military, the U.S. military is also working on a similar concept with Malloy Aeronautics, but that concept currently has a robot riding the hoverbike.
The Navy is starting to use repurposed Xbox 360 controllers to control the periscopes on some of its submarines, according to The Virginian-Pilot. In the past, many Virginia-class submarines used mast-mounted cameras to see above the water and they required helicopter-like joysticks that required extensive training and were costly to use. Lockheed Martin said sailors were able to pick up the controller scheme within minutes and for the Navy, the shorter training time is a secondary benefit. Plus, Xbox 360 controllers, which run around $30, cost way less than a military grade joystick for a submarine.
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.
A U.S. Military DARPA program is putting $65 million into the creation of an implantable device that will provide data-transfer between human brains and the digital world. The program seeks to heighten hearing, sight and other sensory perception as well as creating a digital brain implant to relay neuron transmissions directly to digital devices. DARPA's research team acknowledged that creating an interface and communicating with the signals of one million neurons "sounds lofty," but Alveda says their research will only map out a foundation for more complex research in the future. But if we're successful in delivering rich sensory signals directly to the brain, NESD will lay a broad foundation for new neurological therapies."