Meet the Robots

Over Memorial Day weekend I attended Fleet week, and made a few new friends. They happen to be robots, of the autonomous flying variety.

These little gadges come in a wide range of sizes, from wasp not much bigger than two hands all the way up to the predator, which is now armed with hellfire missiles.

For the time being, these robots are unarmed, but are all equipped with survaillance cameras. This explosion in optical feeds helps explain the urgency behind programs like Carnegie Mellon’s Informedia project (Is Anyone Watching Grandma?).

These craft already realize Ender’s Game scenarios, with hs dropouts controling live ammunition in the Iraqi theater of combat from the safety of a bunker in New Mexico.

But even without carrying missiles themselves, these robots have become part of the weapons system. A soldier explained to me how the targeting systems for the large guns on the decks of US ships are now wired to the data feeds coming from the remote drones. With the click of a lightpen, what the plane sees is targeted from the ship’s guns, damage assesed and trajectories corrected.

Killer robots are a topic I have been thinking about for a while, but it was truly amazing to see these devices in person. In many respects this hardware is identical to the remote control airplanes from the ’50s. The only major new advancement is the software controling them.

Here is the model that Bush is planning on deploying to patrol the Mexican border. How long before local law enforcement gets a few of these to play with? How many do they need before the start assigning them to track individual suspects?

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