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New Bird Shaped Drone Shown at Security and Defense Trade Show 124

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-a-birds-it's-a-plane-it's-big-brother dept.
garymortimer writes "SHEPHERD-MIL, a UAV which looks like a native bird with the same flight performance, will be featured at HOMSEC 2013. This UAV is characterized by the glide-ratio and noiseless motor that make it invisible, silent and unobtrusive in sensitive missions. SHEPHERD-MIL is equipped with cameras and geolocation software. The system is especially suitable for border surveillance missions, firefighting, and anti-drug trafficking operations amongst others."
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New Bird Shaped Drone Shown at Security and Defense Trade Show

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  • Hyphenation (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "Bird-shaped"

    The way it's written now, I parsed this at first as "Some new bird shaped a drone that is shown at a security and defense trade show".

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Native bird, they said. Border protection. Must look like a roadrunner.
      If the bureaucracy has much to do with it it will look like an emu.

      • by teaserX (252970) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @01:47PM (#43446645) Homepage Journal
        Oddly, there are number of emu ranches in the southwestern U.S. so that would not be out of place. An emu in sky might, however, raise an eyebrow.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by hairyfeet (841228)
          And having dealt with crazy paranoid stoners more than once can you guess what is gonna be the outcome? A shitload of dead birds as the paranoid drug runner takes out every bird in the sky "just in case"..
          • I don't know one 'stoner' that even owns a gun. Words like 'crazy' and 'paranoid' mixed with 'stoner' in reference to gun-wielding makes me think you have some sort of agenda that I do not like. I'd definitely mod you down if I had points.

            The real question I have is, "What happens when a real raptor sees this drone and doesn't take kindly to it?" Would this type of camouflaged drone have to be equipped with countermeasures to hurt/stop real birds from attacking it? Would that be permissible in light of

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              I take it you don't know any dealers then? Most dealers i know have guns, you don't want to have several thousand bucks worth of dope and not have some protection. Hell I once went to a little trailer in the center of the capital and got met at the door by fricking guys with Uzis, turned out I got there when a large load was being split and both sides had brought their muscle. I ended up getting nearly a QP worth of killer weed for free just by volunteering to weigh out the bags and clean out any large stem

        • by flyneye (84093)

          There exists the Boeing Chicken launcher for testing jet engines with frozen chickens. We will just upscale the cannon to accept an emu for tribal sacrifice.
          Burning man...won't raise an eyebrow.

      • by slick7 (1703596)
        The eye in the sky is nigh!
    • I first read it as "New bird shaped drone shot down at Security and Defense trade show."
      Maybe I've been living in the south way too long.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone knows that fires are blind to birds. Their one natural enemy.

  • Firefighting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr2cents (323101) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @10:39AM (#43445873)

    Why would you disguise a UAV as a bird if you want to use it for firefighting? Also, it's just a press release infomercial, some guys want to put their hand in the military money jar so they put some feathers on a remote controlled airplane. Awesome... not!

    • by Deadstick (535032)

      Same reason troops are used to fight forest fires: If there's no immediate need in the primary mission, no reason not to employ them in something else they're capable of doing. Versatility.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)
        Maybe so, but it's obvious that its primary mission will be military in nature. Sure, retasking military resources for civilian use can be a Good Thing, but using one of these without retrofitting or demilitarising it? Not a Good Thing, IMNSFBHO.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It is shaped like a bird so they can give the taxpayer the bird.

    • by 4wdloop (1031398)

      Ditto..."border surveillance". I'd think we'd want border surveillance to be visible as deterrent, no?

      • Depends on whether visual deterrence or effective enforcement is more important.

        Not that I'm suggesting this is for anything but spying, likely including domestic spying since it would be undetectable...drones are just one of those technologies with a terrible positive application:negative application ratio.

        • by Culture20 (968837)

          Not that I'm suggesting this is for anything but spying, likely including domestic spying

          given that it's a (north American?) native crane, domestic spying seems the only spying use.

    • by martas (1439879)
      Perhaps: good at gliding => can use rising air columns from e.g. forest fires to stay in the air much longer.
    • by AK Marc (707885)
      You have a UAV. Why not use it for firefighting? It's not any better or worse than any other UAV for that purpose.
      • by Alex Belits (437) *

        Probably because small UAVs are terrible for firefighting to begin with.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          They are good at fighting fires. You go up high and get a more localized view of the wind/smoke, and good recon on your own guys, especially if radio is spotty (or more practically, the people brought in for the biggest fires aren't familiar with the local surroundings).

          Yes, I get the pedantry of "good recon doesn't put out a fire, water does." If that's truly your stance, you should take radios away from all the fire fighters as well. After all, a radio never put a fire out.
          • by Alex Belits (437) *

            And an airplane ot a helicopter flying somewhat higher, will do the same, better, and won't be torn into pieces by localized streams of hot air rising from the fire and dragging cold air from around themselves.

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              Yeah, but $10,000,000 for a single helicopter (about what they end up paying for a decent helicopter for a fire department) vs 1000 $10,000 drones and tell me which is the better deal. The fire department is more likely to have to choose between a drone or nothing. Which is the better choice then?
  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @10:48AM (#43445907)
    If you follow one of the links inside the linked article for this, you find an interesting statement about some software available on iTunes called Parrot:
    Parrot removes FreeFlight 2.2 from iTunes [suasnews.com]
    French manufacturers of the worlds most popular UA have plainly run into problems. They issued a statement yesterday:- AR.Freeflight 2.2 was removed from iTunes last month due to the need for patentsâ(TM) clarification on accelerometer and absolute control...
    In a couple of years time I donâ(TM)t believe anyone will be left flying UAS with conventional RC gear when the smartphone in their pocket will be able to cope.

    It's talking about a way of controlling RC aircraft using your smart phone with a map-view control system rather than using a standard stick-controller to control the plane's pitch/yaw/roll using the control surface actuators directly. It's a shame that even software to do basic things like this has to deal with patent crap. Boo software patents!

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Why on earth would you release something like that on iOS? Any kind of industrial/commercial control app needs to be on an open platform where it can be installed without permission of the OS vendor, otherwise you risk being cut off at any moment. Android is the obvious choice, and rugged handsets/tablets are available too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ThePeices (635180)

        Why on earth would you release something like that on iOS?.

        Because if you are cool enough to fly spy drones, you need to be seen doing it with the bestest phone in the whole wide world.

        Would Steve (peace be upon him, hallowed be His name) be caught dead controlling spy drones on an Android? Of course not, and neither should you.

  • Silent? Bird-shaped? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903)

    Its not necessarily the shape or the noise that give UAVs (and other such aircraft) away. Its the propeller and the high frequency modulation of radar or its optical signature that gives these away.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Radar is a problem. But so far, few criminals bring a radar to check if the birds are real. And if they did, you could easily track smugglers by their use of radar anyway.

      Shaping it like a bird gets rid of problems with the optical signature. To take this to a logical extreme, start with a stuffed eagle when building your UAV.

      The propeller can be hidden from accidental view. Put it on top of the "bird", where body and wings will hide it from the ground. Transparent plastic might make it difficult to see too

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Interesting. Wonder if a drone detection system could be put together using the magnetron and power supply from a microwave oven as the illumination source.

        The idea would be to mod the power supply to give stable, well filtered HV to the magnetron, radiate using a dish antenna (lots of wifi dish antennas out there for 2.45 GHz) and look at the return signal for high frequency modulation characteristic of a propeller. Filtering the return for F>10Hz or so should get rid of most natural modulation effects.

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          Too complex. The easist way to tell them apart is to look closely at them on the ground. $20,000 of electronics sounds cool, but a $1 bullet will make it much easier to inspect, presuming you can hit it.
  • If they're truly wanting to make the thing "look" like a bird, they need to model a bird's flying style. Predators move around an area and search; if these just stay in the same spot or even evenly patrol an area it's going to stand out.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @11:01AM (#43445953) Homepage

      It's a bird!

      It's a plane!

      (Somebody really needs to come up with a Superman UAV.)

    • by seyfarth (323827)

      If they're truly wanting to make the thing "look" like a bird, they need to model a bird's flying style. Predators move around an area and search; if these just stay in the same spot or even evenly patrol an area it's going to stand out.

      They also need to flap the wings to look like a bird. After a few seconds of viewing a soaring bird, lots of criminals will now shoot it down just to be sure.

      • by peragrin (659227)

        At 400' shooting down a bird flying with anything but a missile is damn near impossible.

        The best portable way would be modified version of something like the XM-25 delayed explosive, grenade launcher. that would be as close to a portable flax cannon as you can get.

        Also at 400' you have to be able to spot the thing. Drones that size are all but a small dot in a very big sky. Made of wood, fiberglass, and carbon they have next to nothing for radar return.

        • by seyfarth (323827)

          At 400' shooting down a bird flying with anything but a missile is damn near impossible.

          The best portable way would be modified version of something like the XM-25 delayed explosive, grenade launcher. that would be as close to a portable flax cannon as you can get.

          Also at 400' you have to be able to spot the thing. Drones that size are all but a small dot in a very big sky. Made of wood, fiberglass, and carbon they have next to nothing for radar return.

          Good point. They could also be painted a non-reflective blue, making a blue dot on a mostly blue sky. It would be hard to use a missile against an invisible drone.

      • by Qwade79 (2464458)
        Something like this perhaps?
        http://www.ted.com/talks/a_robot_that_flies_like_a_bird.html [ted.com]

        Here's a link to a youtube version which starts about the time it gets launched:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Fg_JcKSHUtQ#t=126s [youtube.com]
    • I didn't RTFA, but the pictures make it appear to resemble a hawk. Have you ever watched a hawk? They ride thermal updrafts in a circular motion and rarely flap their wings once in the air. It also appears to be pretty large compared to most hawks, so I would guess this would allow them to circle much higher than most hawks and still look convincing. So they could cover a very large area with a high zoom camera.
      • Actually, at least in Central Texas, looking like a hawk might not be the companies' best move. Around here, crows gather a posse and harass the crap out of any raptor dumb enough to get within 30 meters of them. This UAV better have a nice rate of climb to escape that sort of mob.
        • Actually, at least in Central Texas, looking like a hawk might not be the companies' best move. Around here, crows gather a posse and harass the crap out of any raptor dumb enough to get within 30 meters of them. This UAV better have a nice rate of climb to escape that sort of mob.

          I was thinking about that too. crows do that. But this thing look a lot larger than most hawks. So it probably flies, or can fly a lot higher than may be worth bothering for crows. Plus a crows eyesight is probably good enough for them to notice it's not really a hawk. I'm in the mid-Atlantic. Do you have mocking birds in Texas? It's even funnier to see them harass the crows. Their about 1/3 the size and always attack in pairs. They're not as fast as a crow, but much more maneuverable and are really good a

  • Call me paranoid, but the camouflage of this bird only works against low-tech opponents. So it's only useful against wet-backs, smugglers and other criminals. Plus, the general public.

    • And now take a wild guess which of those it'll be. Hint: It's the ones that can't simply shoot down birds "just in case".

    • by peragrin (659227)

      I don't know about you but even most drug dealers don't carry around portable radar units, Portable radio tracking units, etc. that can cover all bands.

      The Military uses fixed location or large airplanes to do that. If you have a man or even car portable unit the Military is interested in funding further development.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        They do carry guns. Guns work on birds, last time I checked.
        • by peragrin (659227)

          Um have you ever even touched a real gun let alone shoot one?

          Hitting a moving target 400' with a slug(rifle, pistol shotgun) is very difficult. Shooting 400' UP is damn near impossible. Hitting a smaller target is far harder than a large one. That bird is 20-30% smaller than a human(Hitting it in the wing once won't bring it down unless your lucky. Only going through the electronics or battery pack will cause a lethal hit.

          Now bird shot which can take down birds(and these planes) has an effective range of

          • by AK Marc (707885)

            Hitting it in the wing once won't bring it down unless your lucky. Only going through the electronics or battery pack will cause a lethal hit.

            If you hit it, even winging it, that's sufficient to identify, at a distance, whether it is bird or plane. The posts I was responding to were about identifying it, not eliminating it.

      • undoing all my moderations in this thread to correct some ignorance:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSTAR

        get with the times bro. they can and do mount these in vehicles, and then can and do carry these things by hand.

        without getting into specifics they are sensative enough to living things.
    • by Filter (6719)

      Also, I fear for the real birds, it's very easy for someone with a rifle to shoot down a soaring rappter. If someone were growing weed in the woods real birds will be killed, many are endangered or recovering.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You don't shoot the birds down. You hide from them. Shooting the birds down just tells them where to look to find you.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @11:14AM (#43446005) Homepage

    Because, after all, you wouldn't want the fire to know it was being watched.

  • Won't somebody rid me of this albatross ?
  • ... why nobody's made a drone with the profile of a vulture. In the US, at least, some species of vulture is common in most areas. They're big (so there's room for interesting hardware, and perhaps even a grenade-sized glide bomb), they're black (so no need to worry about mimicking particular coloring), and they don't flap. They also ride thermals; it shouldn't be that hard to program a drone to sense updrafts and use them to stay aloft.

  • by Jeremi (14640) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @01:20PM (#43446537) Homepage

    Birds have enough problems without being always shot at on sight because they might be spies.

  • ...for that touch of authenticity

    • ...for that touch of authenticity

      They could actually use it as a marking system to make it easier for ground crews to find spots and to "tag" suspected criminals, if they use a formula that starts off looking like normal bird poop, then turns a fluorescent color and can't be washed off. (Having it start out looking like poop would prevent the offenders from realizing it's not a normal bird and shooting it down before it can escape.)

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        What does the job ad look like? "Scatalogist wanted, must have experience with avian scat".

  • Well, actually... it's a little of both.

  • Expect to find lots of dead cranes now. Make your next drone look like a drug trafficker, and the problem solves itself (unless the purpose was to spy on ordinary citizens).
  • Actual Birds (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Flere Imsaho (786612) on Sunday April 14, 2013 @05:48PM (#43447651)

    I fly RC quite a lot, and it's not uncommon for birds of prey, gulls and magpies to attack model planes. Magpies, especially when broody and you are near their nest, will attack relentlessly. A mate has a plane that's shaped and painted to look like a hawk, and he reckons he gets twice as many attacks when flying it compared with his more conventional rigs.

    So I wonder what the lifespan of these things will be?

  • I was expecting a little more. It looks like its just a standard model airplane with a little reworking of its controls so it can operate without a rudder and a high resolution camera. I highly doubt it would look very convincing in a real world situation. Maybe flying off in the distance it might fool someone for a bit but once it was overhead it would become apparent pretty quickly that it wasn't using its wings naturally for control & propulsion.

  • "But the birds will loose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline."

    "Oh, and some of the birds will be spy bots, too" -- Henry Drummond, Inherit the Wind
  • In every single fantasy novel I've read, in which the antagonist demi-god was clairvoyant through an avian medium (usually ravens or crows because the dark one is so totally goth) there was an outstanding bounty on the vile critters. Imagine if the dark eye was a keystone species? There aren't many birds in the desert, for example, and those falcons and hawks are usually *absolutely necessary* for the ecosystem.
  • A hawk? I'm not impressed. A 35-foot pterodon, now we're talking! Plus one that big could carry missiles, huah!

    http://rocketdungeon.blogspot.com/2012/02/remember-smithsonians-flying.html [blogspot.com]
    http://www.edgeascension.com/index_files/Page2570.htm [edgeascension.com]

    http://www.edgeascension.com/index_files/image2497.jpg [edgeascension.com]

One picture is worth 128K words.

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