Lou, I often think about the same thing when writing about flying robots and UAVs--more stuff in the sky. But mostly, I'm intrigued by the technology and what it can do. Besides, there are now a ton of laws (it seems) governing their use, as Thinking_J lists in his comment to the flying robots slideshow here
Laws are only good for those that follow them. They do absolutely nothing for those that do not care they are breaking a law.
Swarming UAVs makes me think we need a defense against them sooner rather than later. How would one stop a swarm? We might see history come full circle, with barrage balloons over our cities like London 1940.
Thanks, Chuck. I've been amazed at so many of the just plain far-out advancements in robotics, but I think that some of the swarming technology is truly mind-boggling. So are some of the biomimicry breakthroughs in robotics--just wait til you see some of my upcoming posts, like today's about rat heart muscles and jellyfish: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=250357
You are correct.. These risks apply to nearly all technology.
Ann... Thanks for update. Interesting to see "swarming" applied to a bit larger platforms.
I could see these being used for wide area search and rescue! A problem out here in the "west" ... elderly wandering off in the desert. Too big of area for most Civil Aviation authorities to work with their resources (my county is over 8,000 sq miles with approx 26 people per sq mile avg) .. dang, it's getting crowded around here.
UAV swarms would certainly offer a great deal of potential for search and rescue operations, that does seem like a very good application indeed. But then the next stage of evolution, in warfare, would be just like the airplane: first, for observation, and next as an additional weapon. A swarm of armed drones would be quite an effective way to support ground troops, but it would have the terrible risk of being tricked by the enemy. GPS "spoofing", and other methoids of misleading, have all ready been found and demonstrated to work. So there are quite a few potential serious hazards associated with such a swarm technology, since the swarm must communicate to function. The inter-element communications links are the weakest points in swarm technology, and should not be ignored. That is the place where defense against a swarm could be made.
Interesting app, Thinking_J. I'm familiar with the general problem you mention, but in much denser areas than 2 people per sq mi. Search and rescue is one of the apps I've seen mentioned for autonomous swarming UAVs and flying robots. I don't see why it couldn't be applied to wider areas.
TJ, sounds like you don't relish seeing lots of these in the skies. Your comment make me think of the swarming robots in Michael Crichton's novel Prey, although those were, of course, much smaller nanobots. But the question is similar: what happens if they get out of control? Do we all watch/read too much sci-fi? I'm never sure...
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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