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Attack of the drones: the mystery of disappearing swarms in the US midwest

The Guardian

At twilight on New Year's Eve, 2020, Placido Montoya, 35, a plumber from Fort Morgan, Colorado, was driving to work. Ahead of him he noticed blinking lights in the sky. He'd heard rumours of mysterious drones, whispers in his local community, but now he was seeing them with his own eyes. In the early morning gloom, it was hard to make out how big the lights were and how many were hovering above him. But one thing was clear to Montoya: he needed to give chase.


Drone attack targets Iraqi base that houses US troops

FOX News

'The Ingraham Angle' host examines the president's approach to diplomacy and foreign policy A drone reportedly dropped explosives at a U.S.-led base near the Erbil airport in Iraq on Wednesday night. There were no reports of injuries, Reuters reported, citing Kurdish officials. It was the first known drone attack believed to be targeting U.S. service members but rocket attacks have hit U.S. bases in the country. A Turkish soldier was reportedly killed in a separate rocket attack Wednesday, Turkish officials said, according to Reuters. A group thought to be aligned with Iran praised the drone attack but no one has explicitly claimed responsibility for it. The U.S. has blamed the attacks on Iran-backed militias, which have called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops, according to Reuters.


Analyst pleads to leaking secrets about drone program

FOX News

Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. A former Air Force intelligence analyst pleaded guilty Wednesday to leaking classified documents to a reporter about military drone strikes against al-Qaida and other terrorist targets. The guilty plea from Daniel Hale, 33, of Nashville, Tennessee, comes just days before he was slated to go on trial in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, for violating the World War I-era Espionage Act. Hale admitted leaking roughly a dozen secret and top-secret documents to a reporter in 2014 and 2015, when he was working for a contractor as an analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).


Adding AI to Autonomous Weapons Increases Risks to Civilians in Armed Conflict

#artificialintelligence

Earlier this month, a high-level, congressionally mandated commission released its long-awaited recommendations for how the United States should approach artificial intelligence (AI) for national security. The recommendations were part of a nearly 800-page report from the National Security Commission on AI (NSCAI) that advocated for the use of AI but also highlighted important conclusions on key risks posed by AI-enabled and autonomous weapons, particularly the dangers of unintended escalation of conflict. The commission identified these risks as stemming from several factors, including system failures, unknown interactions between these systems in armed conflict, challenges in human-machine interaction, as well as an increasing speed of warfare that reduces the time and space for de-escalation. These same factors also contribute to the inherent unpredictability in autonomous weapons, whether AI-enabled or not. From a humanitarian and legal perspective, the NSCAI could have explored in more depth the risks such unpredictability poses to civilians in conflict zones and to international law.


NeBula: Quest for Robotic Autonomy in Challenging Environments; TEAM CoSTAR at the DARPA Subterranean Challenge

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

This paper presents and discusses algorithms, hardware, and software architecture developed by the TEAM CoSTAR (Collaborative SubTerranean Autonomous Robots), competing in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. Specifically, it presents the techniques utilized within the Tunnel (2019) and Urban (2020) competitions, where CoSTAR achieved 2nd and 1st place, respectively. We also discuss CoSTAR's demonstrations in Martian-analog surface and subsurface (lava tubes) exploration. The paper introduces our autonomy solution, referred to as NeBula (Networked Belief-aware Perceptual Autonomy). NeBula is an uncertainty-aware framework that aims at enabling resilient and modular autonomy solutions by performing reasoning and decision making in the belief space (space of probability distributions over the robot and world states). We discuss various components of the NeBula framework, including: (i) geometric and semantic environment mapping; (ii) a multi-modal positioning system; (iii) traversability analysis and local planning; (iv) global motion planning and exploration behavior; (i) risk-aware mission planning; (vi) networking and decentralized reasoning; and (vii) learning-enabled adaptation. We discuss the performance of NeBula on several robot types (e.g. wheeled, legged, flying), in various environments. We discuss the specific results and lessons learned from fielding this solution in the challenging courses of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge competition.


CASA to trial automated digital approvals for commercial drone operators

ZDNet

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), alongside Airservices Australia, on Wednesday announced a trial of a new digital, automated process that is aimed at expediting the approval processes of remotely piloted aircraft operations. According to the organisations, the application process currently takes weeks to complete before commercial drone operators are allowed to take flight. With the trial, CASA and Airservices hope to create an application process that reduces the time required from weeks to seconds. "Moving to digital approval processes is a key initiative for CASA, streamlining interactions and making it easier for operators," CASA acting-CEO and Aviation Safety director Graeme Crawford said. The trial digital process will be delivered through CASA's remotely piloted aircraft systems digital platform, with Airservices and the Queensland University of Technology to develop designated maps that will be used to conduct the relevant analysis required for these automated authorisations.


B-52s again fly over Mideast in US military warning to Iran

Boston Herald

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- A pair of B-52 bombers flew over the Mideast on Sunday, the latest such mission in the region aimed at warning Iran amid tensions between Washington and Tehran. The flight by the two heavy bombers came as a pro-Iran satellite channel based in Beirut broadcast Iranian military drone footage of an Israeli ship hit by a mysterious explosion only days earlier in the Mideast. While the channel sought to say Iran wasn't involved, Israel has blamed Tehran for what it described as an attack on the vessel. The U.S. military's Central Command said the two B-52s flew over the region accompanied by military aircraft from nations including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It marked the fourth-such bomber deployment into the Mideast this year and the second under President Joe Biden.


U.S. is 'not prepared to defend or compete in the A.I. era,' says expert group chaired by Eric Schmidt

#artificialintelligence

Toby Walsh, a professor of AI at the University of Sydney, told CNBC the dangers have only "become nearer and more serious" since the letter was published. "Autonomous weapons must be regulated," he said. The Future of Life Institute, a non-profit research institute in Boston, Massachusetts, said last month there are many positive military applications for AI but "delegating life and death decisions to autonomous weapon systems is not one of them." The institute pointed out that autonomous drones could be used for reconnaissance missions to avoid putting troops in danger, while AI could also be used to power defensive anti-missile guns which detect, target, and destroy incoming threats without a human command. "Neither application involves a machine selecting and attacking humans without an operator's green light," it said.


Biden limits drone strikes outside war zones, rolling back Trump policy

FOX News

General Jack Keane, Fox News senior strategic analyst, reacts to the decision on'Fox & amp; Friends.' The Biden administration has ordered temporary limits on drone strikes outside war zones, rolling back a Trump-era policy, as President Biden reviews "legal and policy frameworks governing these matters," the National Security Council told Fox News. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne, in a statement to Fox News, said that at the beginning of the Biden administration the president "established new interim guidance concerning the United States' use of military force and related national security operations." "The purpose of the interim guidance is to ensure the President has full visibility on proposed significant actions into these areas while the National Security Council staff lead a thorough interagency review of the extant authorizations and delegations of Presidential authority with respect to these matters," Horne said. Horne told Fox News that Biden's review "is now underway and will include an examination of the legal and policy frameworks governing these matters."


Biden Secretly Limits Counterterrorism Drone Strikes Away From War Zones

NYT > Middle East

The Biden administration has quietly imposed temporary limits on counterterrorism drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefield zones like Afghanistan and Syria, and it has begun a broad review of whether to tighten Trump-era rules for such operations, according to officials. The military and the C.I.A. must now obtain White House permission to attack terrorism suspects in poorly governed places where there are scant American ground troops, like Somalia and Yemen. Under the Trump administration, they had been allowed to decide for themselves whether circumstances on the ground met certain conditions and an attack was justified. Officials characterized the tighter controls as a stopgap while the Biden administration reviewed how targeting worked -- both on paper and in practice -- under former President Donald J. Trump and developed its own policy and procedures for counterterrorism kill-or-capture operations outside war zones, including how to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. The Biden administration did not announce the new limits.