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The Military Technology

$10M For Unmanned Aircraft That Can Perch Like a Bird 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the UAV-wanna-cracker dept.
coondoggie writes "Unmanned aircraft maker AeroVironment got an additional $5.4 million to further develop a diminutive aircraft that can fly into tight spaces undetected, perch and send live surveillance information to its handlers. Last Fall, AeroVironment, got $4.6 million initial funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the Stealthy, Persistent, Perch and Stare Air Vehicle System (SP2S), which is being built on the company's one-pound, 29-inch wingspan battery-powered Wasp unmanned system."
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$10M For Unmanned Aircraft That Can Perch Like a Bird

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  • by illumastorm (172101) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:28PM (#28205707)

    Deploy: Lazorbeak. Mission: Scout Terrorists.

  • by Haoie (1277294) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:29PM (#28205715) Homepage

    And their robot bird could turn into a cassette tape too. For easy playback, no less.

    How awesome was that?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:55PM (#28205823)

      Yeah, but where is the Army going to get a Cassette Player these days?

      • That might be one way to keep your expensive playback device from being stolen. I mean, who would want one these days?

      • by Yoozer (1055188)
        Perhaps they should start a campaign - "Home taping is killing terrorists" or something to get regular people interested in cassette players again.
      • by edittard (805475)

        eBay?

    • by Xest (935314)

      Nowadays you'd need a separate transformer to be able to turn into a cassette player to play it back, good luck finding one elsewhere!

      Something does amuse me about the fact an ultra-high tech. robot of the future would turn into a cassette of all things though.

      Might as well have optimus prime turn into a horse and cart.

      • Nowadays you'd need a separate transformer to be able to turn into a cassette player to play it back, good luck finding one elsewhere!

        Hold on now. When one has to transform to interface with the other, it's just adaptation. When both have to transform to interface in some unusual way, it's called a kink.

      • Nowadays you'd need a separate transformer to be able to turn into a cassette player to play it back

        Soundwave. [wikipedia.org] Yeah, they had that covered.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        you missed the steam punk transformers series then. congratulations.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Might as well have optimus prime turn into a horse and cart.

        No, he'd just turn into a horse. When going back to robot mode, the cart would disappear into the background until he needed to go back into beast-- er... vehicle mode.

        The holographic human he uses to whip himself into running is just disturbing.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      And their robot bird could turn into a cassette tape too. For easy playback, no less.

      That project would go much beyond the planned $10M.

      An entire tape? at $650.000 per song in IP rights?

  • by physburn (1095481) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:35PM (#28205749) Homepage Journal
    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stealthy spy plane of the sci-fi days of yore. Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door - Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door - Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

    Quoth the SP2S, "nevermore" and nothing more.

  • Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:36PM (#28205757) Homepage Journal

    at what point does the US military stop looking like a human defense force and start looking looking like alien invaders from a robot planet?

    • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:18AM (#28205947)

      at what point does the US military stop looking like a... defense force and start looking looking like... invaders... ?

      Surely they still teach history in schools.

    • Take a look at the statistics in terms of the number of unmanned airplanes and ground vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. There are, literally, thousands of them. Right now, they are remotely piloted, but you can't tell that when one is driving around or flying over your house. And pretty soon, they won't be remotely piloted.
    • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Abreu (173023) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @10:20AM (#28210109)

      at what point does the US military stop looking like a human defense force and start looking looking like alien invaderst?

      Around the 1840s

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_Destiny [wikipedia.org]

    • by GWBasic (900357)

      at what point does the US military stop looking like a human defense force and start looking looking like alien invaders from a robot planet?

      Robot wars mean less human casualties. It's an important part of the path away from our animal instincts to fight each other.

  • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday June 03, 2009 @11:42PM (#28205785) Journal

    Will it drop bird poop on your surveillance target? I mean how suspicious would a bird be if it didn't do that?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Will it drop bird poop on your surveillance target? I mean how suspicious would a bird be if it didn't do that?

      Yes, it'll leak battery acid, just like my @#*!& Dell laptop.
             

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Xest (935314)

      I hope it shits napalm, just for the coolness factor.

  • to perching sharks >= )?!
  • 2100 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aereinha (1462049)
    One day unmanned aircraft will deliver pizza's to our door. Replacing delivery drivers that keep getting lost.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:13AM (#28205919)

    Upon reading the title, my first reaction was that there was a meeting that went something like

    • ... just send our spy planes to perch somewhere nearby and watch the terrorists.
    • Uh, sir, spy planes don't "perch".
    • Oh? Well, why not? I expect my spy planes to be able to perch. Like a bird. Somebody get on that.
    • Err... yes, sir!

    In the future I expect robots that can

    • slither like a snake
    • prowl like a lion
    • fly like an eagle
    • by M0b1u5 (569472)

      --> Slither like snake: already done.

      --> Prowl like lion: coming soon.

      --> Fly like Eagle: been around for a century.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Wait, I know of plenty of machines that fly, but not by flapping wings/riding air currents.
        • by MadKeithV (102058)
          They've got "flying like a dodo" down, it's only a few steps more to eagle level!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by snerdy (444659)

      In the future I expect robots that can

      • fly like an eagle

      They would fly like an eagle, to the sea, fly like an eagle and let their spirits carry them?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nichole_knc (790047)
      And sting like a bee....
    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      - Hump like a bonobo!

    • by jafac (1449)

      With friggin lasers on their heads.

  • by M0b1u5 (569472) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:20AM (#28205955) Homepage

    A 450 gram, 29-inch wing span, battery powered vehicle ISN'T MANNED???? WTF?

    Sweet babby Jebus!

  • I know twitter has been getting popular lately, but i think a $10m spyplane that perches is taking things a bit too literally.
  • Stainless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JustOK (667959)

    Didn't the Stainless Steel Rat already use one?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Could perch on a power line and recharge its batteries for round the clock operations. Scary.

    • by Aereus (1042228)

      Assuming it wouldn't get fried out by the voltage in the line before the transformer? I doubt it could balance on something as thin as a power line though, anyways.

      • It's not voltage that kills things, it's current. How you do you suppose non-cybernetic birds survive the experience?

        You could probably leech some power from high-voltage AC lines with an induction loop, a rectifier, and a big-assed resistor.

        • Re:Power lines? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Thursday June 04, 2009 @01:59AM (#28206313) Journal

          It's not voltage that kills things, it's current. How you do you suppose non-cybernetic birds survive the experience?

          Uh, by not carrying the current at all? Touch one powerline while not grounded or connected to any potential place for the charge on it to flow and nothing will happen, touch one while grounded and you're dead. Birds don't experience any current because there's no place for the current to flow.

          You're right that it's the current that kills, but in this case the birds experience neither current nor voltage, so it's an irrelevant answer.

          • by Aereus (1042228)

            I meant if it tried to charge off of the power line. I don't know what the actual voltage is on residential lines, but I would imagine considerably more than the 240/440 that runs up to your house from the transformer.

        • by jamesh (87723)

          It's not voltage that kills things, it's current.

          Or more correctly, it's the difference in voltage that kills things. It doesn't matter if you touch a piece of wire at 3kv (relative to the ground), as long as the rest of you isn't touching the ground at the time. That's why birds can sit happily on a high voltage power line without problems (cancer causing radiation aside :). If there are two birds sitting on different wires, and the wires are at different voltages (eg different phases in a 3 phase circuit)

    • by stuntpope (19736)

      Old news.

      Small UAVs May Recharge on Power Lines
      http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,158240,00.html [military.com]

  • "Dad! You won't believe what I just caught with my BB-gun!"

    • funny, I was thinking the same thing. I could take it out with a .22 cal. and set the Fed back 10million? Sign me up!

      -Oz
  • And it can post its surveillance reports to the Internet in under 140 characters. This bird will tweet!
  • Why can't they just train real birds to perch and randomly attach cameras or whatever to things. Swallows come to mind, I'd have to check. I don't remember if African or European would be best.
  • The robot war machines will be the next generation of weapons of mass destruction.

    Soon we will see swarms of poisonous digital mosquitoes, mechanical snakes with nuclear warheads, which can enter the land unnoticed, robot-fish, which enters a lake via a small river and poisons the whole lake, and so on and so forth.

    Let us note now how it all started.
  • I would suggest to ban by an international law all military robots. While there are not so many of them yet. It would be more difficult and expensive when there are armies of millions military robots.

    The definition is simple: no military equipment without a responsible human physically attached to it.

    In the 50s it would have been much easier to ban nuclear weapons while there were only few of them around, not hundreds of thousand as it is now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Beezlebub33 (1220368)
      There are thousands already out there, so this horse has left the barn. See, for example, the Raven [wikipedia.org] or Packbot [wikipedia.org]. Note the numbers already shipped (>8000 and >2000). No, they are not autonomous, but they definitely don't have a human physically attached. And they are getting more autonomous all the time.

      While it might be a good idea, I don't think that the main proponent / user of the technology (U.S.) would agree to get rid of them. Too damn useful. And you are right that there will come the da
  • Wouldn't information/technology like this be much more helpful if it was kept quiet? If enemies know what to look for, it makes it harder to go undetected... Before news like this broke, nobody would pay any attention to a bird fluttering around, but now people are going to be armed with bird hunting rifles all around sensitive areas. Ha.

    As a sidenote, this is a general beef I have with things like this, not just the perching (but unmanned, who'da thought?) surveillance aircraft. I'm torn between my geek
  • Oh please (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Thursday June 04, 2009 @12:31PM (#28212001) Journal

    This is the sort of thing that Wyat Cenack (sp?), senior military analyst on The Daily Show, described as RFC projects. "Really F***ing Cool."

    Yes, this is all cool and impressive and all, but hang on a second. Why does the US still put so much faith in technology to fix all the world's problems?

    I remember reading an article in The Economist years ago about an American-developed mine clearing system. It was a huge, expensively developed, bulldozer. Er, yes, a bulldozer. It had a few bells and whistles and looked like something dropped out of an Imperial Star Destroyer, but trust me, it was just a bulldozer. Well they found that it was less effective than the tried and tested British method of a trained guy with a metal detector and a big stick poking into the ground. I'll let you guess which was cheaper and more effective.

    If the British had adopted in Northern Ireland the same tactics that the USA is adopting now in different parts of the world, the troubles in Northern Ireland would still be going strong, we'd have gone as far as full on civil war, and the Brits would be looking to the UN for support because they'd have pissed off so many Irish Republicans that bomb alerts in London would be a daily occurrence.

    Air strikes in residential areas? Sending in troops to act as policemen when they can't even speak the local language? What the hell are they thinking? Do they seriously think that the battle for the hearts and minds of muslims is going to be won by UAVs, robotic birds, satellites, tanks, and legions of soldiers occupying other peoples' countries as if their sovereignty counts for nothing? Do they think the reaction will be any different than their own reaction would be if Iranian troops were occupying San Diego, bursting into peoples' homes in search of militants, and calling in air strikes to wedding receptions?

    They need to learn a few lessons from the British. An insurgency and a poisonous militant mindset is not defeated by a standing army. It's defeated behind the scenes by the intelligence services, by infiltration, away from the prying eyes of the media and it's done for the purpose of getting the job done, not in public for the purpose of winning votes. The only thing done in public is consistent repudiation of violence as a means of achieving political aims, education about the futility of violence and how it achieves nothing but heartbreak for all involved [youtube.com] (viewer discretion advised), and providing a peaceful political alternative to the physical force method. It's less glamorous and the boys don't get to play with their toys, but it's a lot more effective.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Yes, this is all cool and impressive and all, but hang on a second. Why does the US still put so much faith in technology to fix all the world's problems?

      Because at some point a lot of us have to go back to living in grass huts (not all bad, mind you) or we have to believe that the only way out is through.

      I remember reading an article in The Economist years ago about an American-developed mine clearing system.

      You should have read about this one [jmu.edu] instead. I don't know if this is the same project, but there is one with a spider robot that has bamboo legs. It steps on the mines from a distance, and loses a leg, which can be replaced.

      Air strikes in residential areas? Sending in troops to act as policemen when they can't even speak the local language? What the hell are they thinking?

      They're thinking about paring down the population and setting the stage to make a lot of money. Who's "rebuilding" Iraq, again?

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        They're thinking about paring down the population and setting the stage to make a lot of money. Who's "rebuilding" Iraq, again?

        Apologies for reading this days later, but: I remember an episode of "Over There" (short-lived "docu-drama" on US soldiers in Iraq), in which the soldiers' mission was to break into some Iraqi's house. Turns out there was a lot of money hidden in a wall. They took it. The Iraqi came home, started shooting at the thieves, and was killed.

        That episode (which was maybe ... 4 years a

  • So the leet-speak phonetic translation of that codename is "spazzes", yes?
  • We have an abundant supply of birds pre-configured with BOTH perching AND the ability to fit into small places!

    Just rig some mind control device to them and presto! An added side effect is camouflage as a freakin' bird!

    Downside would be peta freaks.

    Alternatively Birds with Freakin' Lasers attached to their heads! Muahahaha!

    Would that count as biological warfare?

  • Self-refueling. Finds earthworms and seeds, converts to ethanol.

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