Flutterby™! : Air Force going unmanned

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Air Force going unmanned

2009-01-15 01:22:13.947556+00 by Dan Lyke 9 comments

I think it was Eric who pointed out that the Air Force is the branch of the military that sends the officers out to do combat while the enlisted stay back behind the lines. Now it appears that that's changing, the Air Force is strongly committed to unmanned aircraft:

"Next year, the Air Force will procure more unmanned aircraft than manned aircraft," the general said. "So I think that makes a very pointed statement about our commitment to the future of UAS and what it brings to the fight in meeting the requirements of combatant commanders."

so now the officers can sit on couches with joysticks watching the combat on their TVs.

In unrelated news, we're getting pretty good at flying the E-flite Blade mCX around our living room.

[ related topics: Aviation Current Events ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 16:21:51.124081+00 by: meuon

Hmm do I trust that communcations link enough for a .30cal or missles/bombs?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 17:13:57.875845+00 by: petronius

Well, somebody is. The guys flying these drones in Afghanistan are actually in California, so even with a satellite link there is a delay. I suppose you can set the thing to "shoot one rocket into coordinate D-12" and then execute while you are waiting for the update. Indeed, a satellite link via space may be more reliable than between a spot over the Tora Bora and a trailer outside of Khandahar.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 18:07:23.249666+00 by: JT [edit history]

One of the fun parts of living near china lake is that occasionally get very strange aircraft flying around late at night. A few months ago, everyone in the valley was complaining about this very strange sounding jet that was flying relatively low. It was doing some ungodly maneuvers that I couldn't imagine a human surviving in, and the engine kept making this repeated popping sound and it would just shoot through the atmosphere.

I was assuming it was something to do with a ramjet design on a remote aircraft, but as soon as it hit the local paper, it disappeared and no answers ever came about.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 19:06:03.987767+00 by: Dan Lyke

Petronius, with a geosync satellite link that latency is half a second (quarter second up and back each way), so there's gotta be a big bit of processing on board the drone itself. I wouldn't be at all surprised if control isn't of the traditional "roll, pitch and yaw" but more of the "go to" sort of thing, and there's probably enough image processing capability nowadays that you can even do "track this target".

JT, it used to be a pretty good bet that you could read about it in Aviation Leak before you heard it in the desert.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 20:31:34.645749+00 by: andylyke

I think that they reduce the geosynch round trip issue by having bazillions of low altitude relays (but don't quote me), so the latency isn't nearly as bad. 100 miles up, 10000 miles around, 100 miles down plus relay delays adds up to only about 0.12 seconds round trip. I recall using secure voice comm links over geosynch paths in the '60s, and having nearly time for coffee before the reply got back.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-15 20:35:33.57054+00 by: andylyke

And on a separate issue - I wonder whether taking the pilot even farther away from the emotional impact of his actions is healthy. Now killing a wedding party of 200 is no more emotionally challenging than 5 minutes of video games. Having to do it with sword, or the next level of abstraction, rifle, must give the "warrior" much more grist to chew on in his self examination than scoring avatars on a video screen.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-16 00:41:08.589473+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Andy, I'd think they'd avoid such ground-based links, simply because they'd become targets in any sort of serious war. I'm pretty sure the new drones do have a lot of automation on-board.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-16 06:01:17.307039+00 by: dexev

Andy, on that note I'm currently reading "On Killing" (author: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman) that talks extensively about what factors make it easier for soldiers to kill. Physical distance is one of the big ones. Recommended reading if you're interested in the topic.

(the commercial 'iridium' system uses the series-of-low-altitude-satellites to reduce the delay, so I wouldn't be surprised if the military did the same.)

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-16 20:51:28.491915+00 by: andylyke

Shadow, I was referring to low orbit satellites, as dexev observed exist in civilian world.

dexev, thanks for the reference. After March 11, 1970, (but who's counting?) the subject became academic to me, but I'll try to get this book.