Future drones: Micro Air Vehicles — unobtrusive, pervasive, and lethal

When graduate student Pakpong Chirarattananon at the Harvard robotics laboratory successfully launched RoboBee on its first flight, the project might have looked like an innocuous and ingenious exercise in miniaturized robotics. But the Pentagon has had its eyes on such technology for several years, with “Micro Air Vehicles” which could be launched in swarms and used for surveillance and even killing.

M.A.V. – Micro Air Vehicles — U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory:

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2 thoughts on “Future drones: Micro Air Vehicles — unobtrusive, pervasive, and lethal

  1. Richthofen von Richthofen

    Posted Video regarding MAV’s (Micro Aerial Vehicles)

    This is just another billion dollar boondoggle (not to mention the criminal immorality involved). More bullshit makework for the Security-Industrial complex. Bottom line is that total cost is too high and reliability is too low.

    Except – and I take this to be their real intended use – if used against Civil Society groups or Pro-Democracy protestors insisting on their rights – “Congress shall make no law .. abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” – if they attempt to break out of their “free speech zones”. How dare they?

    Getting back to the point, MAVs operating independently in typically constricted urban spaces are vulnerable to all kinds of countermeasures. I give a few random ideas, but the actual development of countermeasures will depend on whether or not this nightmare actually becomes reality.

    For example in the video a “swarm” of MAVs is shown navigating down a darkened hallway. Heck, with night vision it could be totally dark. But MAVs operating indoors would be easily detected with motion detectors, and destroyed with birdshot.

    Any MAV – whether or not it actually looks like a bird, as in the video balancing on a wire and surveilling the target – would likewise be vulnerable to guns and grenades and all the traditional devices used to hunt birds, or even a thrown stone.

    MAV’s are further compromised by needing to be small enough to escape detection, while having limited memories, large power requirements and limited speed and range.

    It would also be unsurprising to learn that MAVs are dozens if not hundreds of times more unstable in flight than conventional drones – so that for example a stun grenade detonated on the ground beneath them could knock down a whole swarm.

    Likewise because of their instability they may be found impractical to fly remotely; which means of course additional weight for the sensors, cpu and memory needed for autonomous flight.

    If trapped inside a Faraday cage, MAVs might be unable even to self destruct in the event of capture.

    Finally a low-tech workaround: putting screening or netting over likely routes and points of ingress – alleys, doorways, HVAC penetrations like chimneys and vent stacks – would be incredibly cheap but also effective.

    Putting such countermeasures in many places would confuse the MAV controllers as to which buildings are actually targets.

    And exaggerated use of such measures might be useful in attracting MAV’s to investigate zones that appear interesting but are actually traps.

    My prediction: the spooks will go back to trying to breed large remotely controllable insects able to carry packages or payloads. Remember what they tried to do to Flipper?


  2. Paul Woodward

    Leaving aside the fact that this Harvard graduate student has demonstrated that drones can indeed be scaled down, I’m trying to picture these “countermeasures” in use inside, for instance, a North Korean nuclear facility: doorways covered in netting, guards firing shotguns at suspected MAVs and the occasional stun grenade going off.

    These things aren’t being developed to use inside empty buildings — they’d be used in areas where people are active — doing things they couldn’t very easily do in the context of these kinds of countermeasures.

    The AFRL’s goal is to develop an insect-sized MAV by 2030. My prediction is that they’ll accomplish this even sooner. Given the lack of transparency and accountability in the use of contemporary drones — which are easy to see and hear — imagine how much more freely MAVs will be used when their operation will be largely undetectable.

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