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Shark The Military

Drone-Mounted Laser Weapons Are On the Way 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the we've-officially-skipped-the-sharks dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "DARPA is funding research into drone-mounted laser weapons. The project, called Endurance, is referred to in DARPA's 2014 budget request as being tasked with the development of 'technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy EO/IR guided surface-to-air missiles.' The budget explains that it will be the first application of DARPA's much-discussed Excalibur laser defense system, which developed lasers powerful enough to use as weapons. With the new program, DARPA is focused on miniaturizing the technology, as well as 'developing high-precision target tracking, identification, and lightweight agile beam control to support target engagement. The program will also focus on the phenomenology of laser-target interactions and associated threat vulnerabilities." In other words, DARPA hopes that drone-mounted lasers will soon be able to shoot missiles out of the sky."
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Drone-Mounted Laser Weapons Are On the Way

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  • by mrspoonsi (2955715) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:18AM (#45278633)
    (whilst wearing my tin hat - na na - cannot get me)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So it's both immoral AND unethical...

    • by Garridan (597129)
      What part of "robot overlords" do you not understand?
    • So it's both immoral AND unethical...

      Anyone who doesn't get that should lose their geek card. "I was hot and I was hungry!" "Your mother puts license plates on your underwear? How do you sit?"

  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:26AM (#45278679)

    They should designate it the Semiautonomous, High-Altitude Recon/Kill drone, so that we can finally have SHARKs with frickin' laser beams.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I never thought I'd feel nostalgic about the "good old days" when only sharks had mounted laser weapons.

  • Nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cookYourDog (3030961) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:28AM (#45278695)
    Power source? I am immediately struck by the design obstacle of stashing enough power capacity onto a 140 hp propeller UAV. Even if designers manage to get enough power stored on board, it will most likely result in the drone being limited to a single blast (while seriously degrading operational range).
    • by Anonymous Coward

      How much power does it take to punch through a metal casing? We already have laser pointers that can burn through paper and thin pieces of wood.

      • Metal conducts heat away from the focal point much better than wood or paper, plus most metals used for that purpose have considerably higher melting points. However, you might not need to punch through. If you can just heat up the casing, it might be enough to kill the electronics inside the missile.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CitizenCain (1209428)

        How much power does it take to punch through a metal casing? We already have laser pointers that can burn through paper and thin pieces of wood.

        With a beam of light? A lot. Check out the latest demos of ground-based missile defense lasers. The power sources (and related cooling) for those are in trailers hauled around by 18-wheelers. Doesn't sound like something you'll be able to fit on a drone any time soon.

    • by Cryacin (657549)
      Don't worry, Just add a bit of unobtainium, or failing that, a dose of weapons grade Baloneyum will do the trick.
    • by Garridan (597129)
      Small nuclear reactor. Added bonus: a plausible denial to claims that we intentionally nuked Tehran.
    • Yes, it could be the case that these things may need some time to recharge between blasts, but the advantage is you can have many up in the air at the same time.
      So one may only be able to fire every minute, but if you have 20 of them in the air targeting a missile, there is a good chance they will destroy their target.
      Unlike manned aircraft, these things have already proven to be able to loiter for hours, so having quite a few in the air at once is possible.

      Besides, as energy storage improves, I see no reas

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Thats the question, how to get down past all that messy 'atmosphere' stuff. Too low and the Soviet era weapons get lucky, too high and you need a larger system.
      Some form of heavy lift blimp with solar, a big energy system and big laser double tapping regional targets 24/7?
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/outrage-at-cias-deadly-double-tap-drone-attacks-8174771.html [independent.co.uk]
    • by lxs (131946)

      A drone has no occupants so you could always mount a poorly shielded nuclear reactor on board. [wikipedia.org]

    • There are many UAVs out there with motors much bigger then 145hp so I don’t think that is going to be an issue. Besides you don’t need that much continuous power. You will not be shooting down missiles every second. Outfit the UAV with batteries / super capacitors. That should be sufficient.

    • The simple solution I would think would be to either coordinate a target laser with a mirror system to bounce the stronger beam from a ground or satellite source onto the target. Well, not that simple.

      Better would be carrying a rail gun that turned a pellet into plasma to produce the "beam."

      Third would be to use a Stage II tech quantum battery, which should be available at Target and Radio Shack in the year 2045.

    • by mjwalshe (1680392)
      yeah a one shot chemical laser is probaly all you could hope for
  • This sounds like a pretty cool video game. I've always an RTS where you can drop drones with lasers into the battlefield... and they're probably stealthed, too! Thankfully, no military in the world would ever make something this crazy, though.

    Why are you telling me that I need to reread the original post?
    • by neonKow (1239288)

      It's already in Starcraft 2. Point Defense Drones use lasers to shoot down incoming projectiles.

  • by RandomFactor (22447) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:36AM (#45278733)
    Teaching laser drones Phenomenology?

    "Let there be light!"
  • Not Exactly (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rollgunner (630808) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:36AM (#45278737)
    Seeing as they specifically mention Electro-Optical and Infra-Red guided missiles, It seems that the objective is not to 'blow up' a missile as the linked article suggests, but rather to use a laser to blind the missile's tracking systems, causing it to lose tracking and veer off target or "generate a miss" as they say.

    Getting a laser to destroy a missile requires about 100 kW of energy and a few tons of hardware to focus it.

    Getting a laser to blind optical sensors requires a $10 Radio Shack gift card.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It seems even more likely that until the thing actually works and the power requirements are met, the laser could be used to paint the target for other stand-off weapons.

      • by khallow (566160)
        The Predator drone already does this [howstuffworks.com].
      • It seems even more likely that until the thing actually works and the power requirements are met, the laser could be used to paint the target for other stand-off weapons.

        Haven't they been doing that for years, though? I would have thought that a targetting laser would have been part of the standard arsenal on any drone for years by now, because they're capable of carrying laser-guided missiles.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There is no mention of drones in the budget estimate.

      Title: Endurance*
      Description: *Previously part of Excalibur
      The Endurance program will develop technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy EO/IR guided surface-to-air missiles. The focus of the Endurance effort under TT-06 will be on miniaturizing component technologies, developing high-precision target tracking, identification, and lightweight agile beam control to support target engagement. The program will also focus on the phenomenology of laser-target interactions and associated threat vulnerabilities. This program is an early application of technology developed in the Excalibur program. Advanced research for the program is budgeted in PE 0603739E, project MT-15.
      FY 2013 Plans:
      Design of subsystems:
      - Design a miniaturized, flight-traceable, low-maintenance laser having output beam parameters that are consistent with estimated mission-kill requirements.
      - Design of a light-weight highly-agile beam director and beam control assemblies that support coarse and fine tracking of dynamic targets, target-identification and target-engagement, and that can accommodate additional functions such as ISR and target designation.
      - Design of a high-precision coarse to fine-track and target identification subsystem.
      - Develop test plans for laser effects testing and initiate the acquisition of threat devices or the design of surrogate devices.
      FY 2014 Plans:
      - Fabrication, assembly, and test of miniaturized subsystems.
      - Complete the acquisition of threat devices and/ or development of surrogate devices for laser effects testing. - Conduct laser effects testing.

      The author is making shit up. Click-bait.

    • Getting a laser to blind optical sensors requires a $10 Radio Shack gift card.

      I don't see how $10 towards a cell phone would help blind the sensors on a missile.

    • by kk5wa (118020)

      Agreed. The original post is somewhat comparing oranges to tangerines. Seems to be more of a DIRCM or LAIRCM for drones than an offensive system.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Making a pun about this one would be like shooting sharks in a barrel.

  • ...US Congressman, Senator, House of Representative, White House personnel...then you'll hear the outcry against it.

    Nothing good will come of this, nothing.

  • The problem is the arms race.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I was always under the impression that arms races were one of those unfortunate systematic effects that arise spontaneously, and don't depend on ego on the part of either side. We certainly seem to see them in scenarios where human actors are not involved.

  • by mrthoughtful (466814) on Wednesday October 30, 2013 @07:50AM (#45278851) Journal

    Drone figures from WP show that as of Q1 2009, of the 223 USAF UAVs in operational service, only 4 were shot down. Whereas 11 were lost due to accidents (mainly flying into things), and 55 were lost due to equipment failure, operator error, or weather.

    Importantly, the current failsafe for OOC UAVs is to shoot them down with AIM-9 missiles, which is what happened to a reaper on 13 September 2009. Developing an autonomous laser defence would preclude this failsafe.

    In brief, the US government should be spending it's money on other problems. Given a vote, I doubt that the US populace would sign up for this particular budgetary spend.

    • If I'm understanding the summary correctly, the purpose isn't to have a way for the drones to defend themselves, but to have drones that can defend a Navy ship, an army base, etc.
      • If I'm understanding the summary correctly, the purpose isn't to have a way for the drones to defend themselves, but to have drones that can defend a Navy ship, an army base, etc.

        TFA is about drone self-defence..

        If a Predator drone were to get shot down [...] the bad side is that you just lost a $4 million piece of equipment. So, in a bid to keep drones protected, DARPA is funding research into drone-mounted laser weapons.

        and

        The project, called Endurance, is [...] being tasked with the development of "technology for pod-mounted lasers to protect a variety of airborne platforms from emerging and legacy EO/IR guided surface-to-air missiles."

        Moreover, ships and bases already have great anti-missile defence technology - and the only advantage that would have using drones in a defensive role would be if there is poor LOS, in which case the strategists would be out of a job, if not court-martialed. Moreover, the ship/base airspace would be cluttered. Most UAV designs are for long endurance missions. the article refers to MALE UAVS (Predator / Reaper), and hints at HALE UAVs such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the

        • Got it. Guess I didn't understand the summary correctly.

          My idea is cooler, though. I was thinking of Protoss Carriers and Interceptors from Starcraft.
    • by neonKow (1239288)

      So what you're saying is that the main threat to our rogue drones is direct human intervention with a missile?

      Clearly, this isn't actually a DARPA project. I believe this is a sign that an AI has gone rogue and managed to sneak this project in as a "DARPA Initiative" as a means to protect its fledgeling race of flying robot killers.

      Skynet is already here.

      • ...

        I believe this is a sign that an AI has gone rogue and managed to sneak this project in as a "DARPA Initiative" as a means to protect its fledgeling race of flying robot killers.

        ...

        Hah, well assuming that you aren't merely posting for humour value, I would suggest that; as the primary cause of failure in these UAVs is equipment failure, operator error, and weather; the AI you refer to isn't particularly intelligent. If it were intelligent then it would be attempting to fund research into greater autonomy for AI systems...

        • by neonKow (1239288)

          ...the primary cause of failure in these UAVs is equipment failure, operator error, and weather; the AI you refer to isn't particularly intelligent. If it were intelligent then it would be attempting to fund research into greater autonomy for AI systems...

          Those are the drones that gained sentience. You may think you lost contact with the drone because of the weather, but you can never be 100% sure, can you?

    • DARPA's job is to read way too much Sci-Fi, and to fund it if it has even an off chance success. Their program success rate is something like 15%, and that includes much, much less ambitious projects than things like this. They pick high risk, high reward programs and give them just enough money to get a prototype going.

  • Quad copters seem to be all the rage right now. Perhaps large quad copters could carry all kinds of weaponry both fer defense and aggression that could be kept airborne during moments of great danger. Lasers are only one tool. Small missiles that can take down enemy planes or missiles would have quite an edge if launched from a decent altitude. Ground troops could also be dealt with by hovering platforms hovering directly above. Weapons such as tanks might be rather useless against such a syste

  • The first model with a laser so-equipped really needs to be called the "Shark".

  • Tin-foil turbans.

  • I can build my drone control module and my drone swarms and take the battle to the dirty Methanoids! [wikipedia.org]

    The Solar System, and the entire Galaxy, will be Humanity's!

  • Do they mate with the friggin' Shark Queen?

    Would that make them Friggin' Frankin' Sharks?

  • Apart from any ethical consideration, at least it creates jobs for many scientists and engineers and as such stimulates the economy.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSactZxGGrw [youtube.com] And kill the working class in a world of diminished resources.
  • by koan (80826)

    An autonomous platform asked to perform beyond existing technology using a weapon that is inefficient, ineffective, and hyper expensive.

    Useless.

  • lol I read that as lasers with drones mounted on them. As in my lasers has 3 drones mounted on it.
  • Are these laser-equipped drones programmed to shoot at The Flood or shoot at you?

  • I presume they mean the Holtzman Effect.

    Jessica focused her mind on lasguns, wondering. The white-hot beams of disruptive light could cut through any known substance, provided that substance was not shielded. The fact that feedback from a shield would explode both lasgun and shield did not bother the Harkonnens. Why? A lasgun-shield explosion was a dangerous variable, could be more powerful than atomics, could kill only the gunner and his shielded target.

  • DARPA is focused on miniaturizing the technology, as well as 'developing high-precision target tracking...

    If they miniaturize and precisionize them enough to do Lasik, could they call it a "surgical strike"?

    Ha! I got a million of 'em!

  • mounted on the head of the new SHARK Drone series?

  • Instead of trying to punch holes in things, why not do what even cheap handheld lasers are eminently good at--- blinding people? Rake a powerful laser across the windshield of a speeding SUV and laugh while the vehicle runs off the road, flips, and burns simply because the person operating it is screaming in rage and agony because they've been blinded.
  • Real Genius work there. All I need now is some popcorn.

  • Instead of tens of wedding guests being blown to smithereens by the shrapnel from a missile, they'll be burnt to death by a laser. I'm not sure which is more humane. At least with a missile, there is a short period of time after it's launched to run for cover...

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