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Swarm Troopers

How Small Drones Will Conquer The World

David Hambling

Predator drones well known, nut much less familiar one, the Raven, represents a much bigger revn in drone warfare. As of 2015 the Pentagon had about 10,000 drones, of which 9,000 were small hand-launched ones. Not so much an aircraft as an instrument for seeing over the hill. By having their own camera-equipped drones, a military unit can see what's around it without having to go up a command chain to get a recon.

Raven travels disassembled in a backpack and snaps together in minutes. It's launched like a toy glider by running it into the wind. It's controlled with video game joystick. Designed to crash land and disassemble into pieces. Flown by two man team - one to pilot, one to aim camera - who are just ordinary GIs. Cruises at 25mph at 300 feet - close enough to pick out whether a man is carrying a shovel or a gun. Units usually put a sticker on them, in the local language, offering a reward if one gets lost.

Even smaller drones capable of hovering within buildings. Sometimes disguised as local birds. Switchblade is a disposable drone with warhead equivalent to a hand grenade - take out a truck, or fly into a single room without killing everyone in the building.

Up until now, military planes have steadily become dearer. This trend gives us Augustine's Law 16, which states that by 2054 the entire defence budget will purchase just one aircraft, which will have to be shared week about by the navy and air force. (Norman Augustine a former CEO of Martin Aerospace - also Law 26: "If a sufficient number of management layers are superimposed on each other, disaster is not left to chance.") Planes get bigger and heavier bc more is expected of them: the 9000lb WW2 Mustang has become the 64,000lb Raptor.

Drones becoming flying smartphones, utilising both the camera and processing capabilities of multiple smartphones embedded in drone wings. The upward pressure of Augustine's Law is trumped by Moore's Law (of declining computer chip costs). The F-35 will cost about $150 million each, or about the price of 75,000 Razor drones. Even the missiles they fire cost as much as several hundred drones. And the razor doesn't require classified tech or a dedicated factory that can be bombed - any 3D printer is a factory.

Black Hornet is a helicopter you can hold in the palm of your hand: the case with the controller and 2 drones fits in a military pocket. It beams back both day and night video.

Drones can conserve power in a number of ways. Can use a large, petrol engine drone as a mothership to ferry small battery-powered drones. Perch on power lines and scavenge electricity.

Swarm of drones to overwhelm enemy defences - don't care about casualties, and just a few need to get through to knock out defences. US ships protected by Aegis Weapon System, a turret with multi-barreled cannons spitting out 75 rounds a second. And usually backed up by sailors with machine guns to get anything closer than 200 yards. naval strategists found that bc drones so small they go undetected until close, so limited time to engage. Multiple simulations showed only needed 8 drones to attack simultaneously and at least 4 would get through to attack defences. They could then take out the machine-gunners and the radar controlling the guns, leaving the ship defenceless from attack by larger weapons.

Use LIDAR laser-based radar which works by bouncing a laser of thousands of points - more useful than a camera bc can work out exact size and position of objects, which often fools cameras. Miniature, solid-state versions now available.

Rapid improvement of algorithms for processing and transmitting video data. There is a planning task benchmark that in 1988 tech would take 80 years to solve. By 2003 processors were a thousand times faster but the algorithms were forty thousand times faster. The combined effect of this progress means task completed in less than a minute.

Visual face recognition - a drone can hover in front of someone and ask them to look at the camera - backed up by other armed drones can function as an unmanned checkpoint.

Flocks of starlings look like they are being organised by a telepathic group mind, but in fact each bird is working with 3 simple rules - steer towards average heading of your neighbours, at the same speed, and keep a certain minimum distance from your nearest neighbours. Wolves look like they're carrying out planned ambushes, but they too are just following simple rules - each wolf moves toward the prey until it reached a certain distance, it then moves away from any other wolves that were at the same distance (all managed by barks which announce "I am here". Even though the prey may be faster than the wolves, it keeps turning to get away from the nearest wolf. This zig-zagging slows it down so that other members of the pack intercept it.

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Similar rules used to control swarms of attacking drones without needing to control individually.

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Drones are the smallest and smartest weapons yet, making them more powerful than anything that has gone before.

The shortest war in history was Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1898. It lasted 38 minutes. A new Sultan was appointed without the required approval of the British consul, and this was considered an act of rebellion. The consul whistled up a Royal Navy squadron. The Sultan took refuge in his palace, protected by guards and machine guns. In 38 minutes 500 people had been killed or injured, the palace had been reduced to ruins, and the Sultan surrendered.

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Civilian hackers have produced Youtube videos showing pistols mounted on drones. They are deadly accurate from a range of fifty feet. Australian company Maul produced a 2 pound shotgun with no moving parts and fired five rounds electronically. The Beretta Nano weighs a pound including 6 rounds, and has a laser sight.

A drone swarm makes airplane takeoffs and landings hazardous - all has to do is fly into the jet's engines. Or could target fuel tanks or cockpit. A terrorist cannot get a bomb inside a defended building himself, but drones can attack any room on any floor. Even a small quantity of Sarin or other nerve gas could be used for assassinations.

Recreational shooters have problems hitting geese at 80 yards, even with the spread of shot from a shotgun. Hitting one with a rifle is even harder. A drone will cover the last 80 yards to its target in around 2 seconds, and it presents a target 4 inches across. It can fly below the horizon, making it hard to see against a cluttered background. And it can fly at night, and in overwhelming numbers. And if the first drones target anyone who is firing at them, few people will be ready to risk their lives by raising a weapon.

By 1939 there were a range of anti-aircraft guns, but a hit on a fast-moving, distant target was unlikely. The original estimate was that they would get one hit for every 200 rounds fired. In practice it turned out that the correct figure was 1 in 20,000 rounds.

One possible defence against drones is a laser gun. These are not powerful enough to burn through armour, but they can cook the electronics of a drone, disabling it. But of course drones have counter-measures, such as dropping very low to avoid detection until so close that enough will get through to disable the gun. And hardware options as simple as adding mirrors can delay the effect of the laser - if it takes 3 seconds to burn out a drone instead of one, automatically increase odds of more getting through.

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