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Shark The Military Technology

Military Working On Laser Powered Drones 95

Posted by samzenpus
from the amazing-laser dept.
disco_tracy writes "Modern militaries depend on fuel. Nearly 80 percent of the supplies delivered to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan consist of fuel, and it's no surprise that those military convoys are frequently the targets of insurgents. In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations. A new approach using lasers could provide power to drones in flight or to machines on the ground and remove the need for gas deliveries to army bases."
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Military Working On Laser Powered Drones

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  • Inflammable stuff on the ground, birdbrain with Laser in the sky shooting down, what could possibly go wrong.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @05:30PM (#37049464)

    "remove the need for gas deliveries to army bases", so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

    Or are we going to aim big orbital lasers at the army bases? That sounds like a good idea.

    Also a dispersive light beam as described is not going to be efficient. R^2 losses on defocusing and all that. So more power needed at the base to send up to the drones.

    • by cruff (171569)

      "remove the need for gas deliveries to army bases", so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

      Sharks, obviously.

    • so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

      From coal fired generators. Afghanistan has plenty of coal. Another option is solar arrays. Afghanistan also has plenty of sunshine.

      So more power needed at the base to send up to the drones.

      Probably not, since you don't have the weight of the fuel on the plane. Besides, coal/sunshine is orders of magnitude cheaper than aviation fuel. Plus you get much longer loiter time.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        From coal fired generators. Afghanistan has plenty of coal. Another option is solar arrays. Afghanistan also has plenty of sunshine.

        Where are the coal mines and solar power plants in Afghanistan?

        • by geekoid (135745)

          pretty much every army base is moving towards becoming a solar power plant.

        • It's simple. First you invade. Then you dig a coal mine. Then you build a power plant. Then come the lasers and the flying drones. After that, you win the war.

          It's all very energy efficient. We just need six more months, honest.

      • by blindseer (891256)

        so where does the laser power sent to the drones come from ?

        From coal fired generators. Afghanistan has plenty of coal. Another option is solar arrays. Afghanistan also has plenty of sunshine.

        I was thinking more along the lines of a nuclear reactor. It's no secret that the military has been working on nuclear power plants that will fit inside a 40 foot ISO container. I don't know how much power one of these reactors can produce but it seems that the military has no shortage of trucks to keep bringing in fuel. Instead of bringing in fuel they can keep stacking up nuclear power plants until they have enough to meet their power needs.

        I'm sure someone will consider these reactors a "proliferation

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I was thinking more along the lines of a nuclear reactor.

          Taliban + radioactive material. What could possibly go wromg?

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        Don't forget that the electricity->laser->electricity conversion rate is all of a couple percent.
      • So it is too expensive and dangerous to transport fuel, but there is no risk of a coal mine or a solar array being the target of the Taliban? Not to mention the cables, the substations and the actual laser bases.

        This thing just smells of trolling for a research grant.

        And, by the way, even with the proper definition of order of magnitude (fifth root of 100, not 10 - Wikipedia is wrong here because the term was invented for astronomy) coal and sunshine are not orders of magnitude cheaper than avgas, unless yo

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, I just read the article to make sure, the idea they have there sounds pretty retarded to be honest. Especially because they are defocusing a LASER...

      They'd be better off powering the damn things from satellites in orbit.
      But then there comes the whole "you might burn our country with that laser system" nonsense. (which would be true, but still)

      Think of a UAV powered entirely from orbit with a laser.
      It could go essentially forever as long as the motors hold out.
      That + pinpoint precise GPS and constant

      • They'd be better off powering the damn things from satellites in orbit.

        Attaching wires to satellites and drones, in a sort of space elevator design? That might just work!

        Think of a UAV powered entirely from orbit with a laser

        Ah, yes, I see what you mean - that's a much better idea...

  • by azop (935907) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @05:35PM (#37049528)
    Sounds like vaporware, which works out well for the government. They will spent zillions of dollars to find out, crap, it doesn't work. Lasers can't bend very well, so you need line of sight. Then, I have to ask, what powers the laser? Hell, I have a great idea on making a perpetual motion device. Okay, not really, but I might, and I'll gladly accept zillion of dollars to prove to you that it doesn't work.
    • by drolli (522659)

      well i suggest to add "can be powered by laser" to the proposal for the Comanche helicopter and try again to build it. i mean 7billion$ and 2 prototypes, thats just 3.5 billion per piece. Now if lets say 10 prototypes could be build with the laser power supply for lets say 4 billion more than the price per piece has dropped to 1/3, that sound economical to me.

    • Laser powered, eh? That just leads to equipment that you can take out with a paint-ball gun.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      A) It's fopr drone. SO not a whole lot of power, ATC.
      B) they fly to the base, circle and then fly back out on a mission.
      C) Solar/wind/Nuclear battery/coal/ guy on a peddle powered generator.

      The pentagon has seen some excellent success with some new solar technology. Stuff you unroll and then staple to the side of a building. The are moving a billion dollars into solar research.

      So at the end of the day, we The war in the med-east may bring us cheaper power, or even day times self generated power.

    • by plover (150551) *

      TFA also said it could be used at night. Now I'm thinking that a formerly stealthy UAV is going to have a 1kW infrared laser pointing at its belly. By prying out the little IR filter from my cell phone's camera, it can quite clearly see IR. If they deploy these, how long will it take before bad guys are scanning the skies with their modified cell phone cameras? "Hey, look at that glowing thing flying over us. Must be American UAV."

      • by shugah (881805)
        Export controls on cell phones.
        • by plover (150551) *

          Yep, the stock terrified American answer to everything. I'm sure that'll prevent all those "Made in America" cell phones from reaching Afghanistan. Every American cell phone factory ... hmm ... uh, mmm ...

          Does it count if we import them first?

    • No, no, no!

      Lasers aren't vaporware!
      Lasers MAKE vaporware! ... depending on power and focus limitations, of course...

  • Gasoline? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.

    Not sure who these soldiers could be, since NATO uses diesel, not gasoline.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      No shit. Most drones and aircraft run on JP-8 jet fuel, which is also a substitute for diesel.

    • Re:Gasoline? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @05:49PM (#37049702) Homepage

      I thought all that gas was used for air conditioning.

      a) I can't imagine drones account for much gas
      b) With lasers drone will be limited to line-of-sight
      c) Laser power will require *much* more energy than gas, where will the power for the lasers come from?
      d) It's a crap idea which will never work

      Another fine example of military pork spending.

      If you want to save lives, why not just send everybody home?

      • c) Laser power will require *much* more energy than gas, where will the power for the lasers come from?

        What I'm wondering is how much energy is lost on the way. Also, how does weather effect this system?
        This might be useful for UAVs that are always close to base, possibly on a repeating patrol pattern. But even then: "David Graham is CEO of Powerbeam, a company that uses a similar technology to deliver small amounts of power to home appliances. He says the advantages of powering a UAV via a beam are lost because of the distances involved"

        It's interesting technology, but this doesn't seem to be the ideal a

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        I have to wonder if the truly obviously "What moran thought that would work?" ideas the military has (that ALWAYS seem to get some funding) aren't a cover for their black bag projects.

        Think about it, nobody really investigates any further because the idea was dumb as shit from the start so of course it didn't work, the really dumb shit projects only get funded (usually) for a few years, just enough to pay for some little nasty ops, and when it is "canceled" because it is a stupid idea nobody is really surp

      • fine example of military pork spending.

        ie. It will happen when pigs fly, then they will be cooked in mid air.

    • by quenda (644621)

      In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.

      And countless thousands have died in a military operation to deliver gasoline.

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

    • by ewanm89 (1052822)
      US forces use mostly aviation fuel, from abram's tank (check the specks, it's a gas turbine engine) to predator drone, one single fuel supply to power the lot is easier on the logistics. Now the rest of NATO still uses diesel engines a lot still in their tanks and ships (which is why the challenger 2 is slower than the abrams they are pretty similar past that).
  • by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @05:36PM (#37049544)

    In the last decade, 1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.

    And how many of those thousands were during combat operations? Less than 100. Distort things much? You're still going to need to get fuel to the laser so it can power the drone ... unless you think its just going to run on sunshine and rainbows?

    Most fuel accidents happen no where near combat zones due to people being slack. Tensions in combat zones and natural selection tend to keep things actually safer in that respect.

    As with most things related to the military, some idiot gets a number, then goes completely doom and gloom, and suddenly OMFG WE GOTTA STOP THAT!

    Let me tell you what the lazier based solution does ... gives them something to see in order to know A) Where the object needing fuel is located at as its being fueld and ... B) The location of the refueling system. Invisible laser you say? Doesn't exist. You may not see it with the naked eye, but it'll have enough interference in the atmosphere to leave a detectable effect regardless of wavelength if it has enough energy to provide power to a drone over any sort of distance. Put on the right goggles and it'll shine for you, then you shot down the drown and mortor the refueling point. As they say in Counter Strike ... Terrorist win.

    Note: I as expected, did not read the actual article, just the summary. Its more fun that way.

    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @06:44PM (#37050216) Homepage Journal

      " unless you think its just going to run on sunshine and rainbows?"
      Kinda:
      Sunshine
      http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/us-military-brings-solar-power-to-its-front-lines/4321 [smartplanet.com]
      http://www.military-solar-power.com/ [military-solar-power.com]
      http://www.powerfilmsolar.com/military-products/military-products.php [powerfilmsolar.com]

      AS for rainbows, they could use the drug crops and turn it into biofuels.

      I person is killed form enemy action for every 24 convoys. So, yea 1000 killed due to enemy action sounds about right.

      "As with most things related to the military, some idiot gets a number, then goes completely doom and gloom, and suddenly OMFG WE GOTTA STOP THAT!
      As with most thing in the military, it did not happen that way.

      "As they say in Counter Strike .
      ah, I see. Your military/logistics experience comes from a kids game,how cute.

      "Note: I as expected, did not read the actual article, just the summary. Its more fun that way."
      I have no idea why someone finds it fun to be completely wrong.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Wow, how awesome, you replied to me to show me whats up ... but posted absolutely nothing related to the article being discussed.

        I'm aware of solar power, its not unique to the military ... its also in no way a viable energy source for military operations anywhere and won't be any time soon, if ever, which is highly unlikely regardless to how many companies you post that claim to be making stuff for the military. My company makes stuff for the military too, it has jack shit to do with any sort of thing tha

        • 2700 people may have died, but what about the wounded? And we're not talking "guy got shot, made complete recovery" we're talking "missing legs, arms, faces". In Iraq alone the official number is over 33,000 and quite possibly a good deal higher.

    • .. unless you think its just going to run on sunshine and rainbows?

      Next week on slashdot - "Military investing in rainbow powered lasers!"

  • Let's hope they don't have a private control the orientation of the laser.... you don't want them to hit and ignite the oil drums that powers the rest of the stuff :-P.

  • by Phleg (523632)
    Now thousands of troops will simply die while trying to hold mirrors providing line of sight back to the original light source.
  • The Army should be mindful of respecting Gaia, and go green, using solar power for this.
    And, we don't want those nasty insurgents blowing up the solar arrays to disable the drones, so let's put them -- in space!

    I mean, really, doesn't it make more sense to bankrupt ourselves investing in useful infrastructure rather than just squandering our wealth in blowing up some rocks and brown people. At least this way, we can accomplish both at the same time.
    • by Desler (1608317)

      And while we are at it we can move Stanford to Massachusetts for you.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Fuck the Gaia shit. We live on a rock that has water. it doesn't care, it doesn't think.

      How many insurgents are bombing military bases? It's the getting from point a to point B where most of the killing happens.

      "I mean, really, doesn't it make more sense to bankrupt ourselves investing in useful infrastructure rather than just squandering our wealth in blowing up some rocks and brown people. "
      Yes.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @06:05PM (#37049864) Homepage
    '1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations.'

    if you think thats bad, check out the death toll related to soldiers trying to deliver gasoline to the united states.
    I cant see lasers helping us anytime soon.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      we don't get oil from the mid-east. Unless there is some action going in in Canada I'm not aware of?

      • by rubycodez (864176)
        the oil market is global; one of the reasons we maim and kill in the middle east is to control influences on that market
  • The Military's chief means of recon can now be brought down by an errant Frisbee. Splendid idea.

  • FTA: "Do you know how many people have died delivering gasoline?" said Tom Nugent, president and co-founder of LaserMotive, a Kent, Wash.-based company looking to replace fossil fuels with laser power. The answer to Nugent's question? Nearly 1,000 soldiers in the last decade. And that's why Nugent wants to drastically reduce the need for delivering fossil fuels. His company's approach could save lives."

    Total snake-oil bait-and-switch bullshit. There is absolutely nothing in the article to suggest how this w

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Maybe this is why the military is going solar?

    • by MWYankee (670656)
      "The operator uses the machine to fire the laser beam at a photovoltaic collector located on an unmanned autonomous vehicle (UAV), small plane or helicopter. The current range of the system is about a kilometer." I suspect if those tankers only had to go a kilometer, not as many of the soldiers would have died.
  • Someone already said it, and I'll say it again: WHERE DOES THE LASER ENERGY COME FROM?
    I am *so* sick of this sort of lazy, pathetic science reporting.

    How to be a popular science reporter in three easy steps:

    Step 1: start by describing a serious real-world issue.
    Step 2: write a bridge that makes a mockery of the laws of physics to:
    Step 3: describe minor scientific result which has nothing to do with Step 1.

    You can try this at home!

    "Millions of people in the world are malnourished. But perhaps that can all c

  • An aircraft that runs on fuel has to carry said fuel, therefore requiring more fuel to carry the fuel itself. Even if the laser is powered by an base generator running on fuel, it will save fuel by removing the power cost of carrying the fuel on board the aircraft. Also the laser allows powering the aircraft with out having to land. That will eliminate many takeoffs which are the most fuel expensive part of the average flight. And the on base generator could run on far lower grades of fuel than JP5 saving
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      That only holds true if the process of converting the original fuel source into radiation (what a laser is) and BACK into useful energy is more efficient than carrying kerosine with it in flight.

      So in principle it could save energy, in reality, modern lasers are incredibly inefficient when shooting through the atmosphere of a room in a test lab, let alone several kilometers of open atmosphere ... in the desert ... where its full of dust ... and THEN converting it back into useful energy ... which is extreme

  • Sit at home, wait until it gets cloudy, then attack.
  • The US military does not use gasoline, so I doubt "1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations".

    The US military standardized on JP-8 in 1990 as a replacement for diesel and gasoline, while the US Navy uses JP-5 for fuel.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP-8 [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JP-5 [wikipedia.org]

    • by quenda (644621)

      The US military does not use gasoline, so I doubt "1000 soldiers have died delivering gasoline to military operations".

      The UAVs do indeed run on gasoline, though I'd assume the 1000 number includes all petroleum fuels.
      It is a bit disappointing, since the Predator is made by General Atomics, who do not live up to their name.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotax_914 [wikipedia.org]

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Those are converted to kerosine, i.e. JP-8, like everything else.

        They switched to a single fuel for everything a long time ago.

  • ...if you remove the soldiers, there's no need to ship in fuel.

  • It is interesting to hear that the military has a plentiful and easily transportable source of power for the lasers, because otherwise it would be insane to convert the energy to laser power and then back to something else (presumably electricity) and take the efficiency loss hit at each step. Now if they would just let the American public have access to that free energy rather than keep it to themselves and Area 51 then we could power the country without the need for foreign oil and get our noses out of th
  • why do people lie about war so much?

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