Counterdrone
November 3, 2014 10:26 PM   Subscribe

 
Remember what Ike said: "It's drones all the way down..."
posted by Windopaene at 10:38 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


 WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME?
> RADIO CONTROLLED AIRPLANES
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:58 PM on November 3, 2014 [6 favorites]




don't call them drones!

That reminds me of a recording a newspaper editor once published in which some guy was complaining about, IIRC, a reference to "pilotless drones". He started out calmly, then slowly ramped up the rage until he was just incoherently screaming "DRONES! DRONES! PILOTLESS DRONES!"
posted by dirigibleman at 11:51 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


George S. Patton said it best: "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his." And ever since I grew up listening to the Vietnam War casualty reports that always showed 5-to-10 times more of THEM dying than US, it has always seemed to me the obvious goal of the U.S. Military to turn that ratio from 10-to-1 into 10-to-none.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:59 PM on November 3, 2014


I believe the Chinese just tested an anti-drone laser successfully.
posted by spitbull at 12:00 AM on November 4, 2014


Time to take out the anti laser drone to play

Etc.
posted by Namlit at 12:11 AM on November 4, 2014


In 2114 war tactics have degenerated to making sure you deploy the set of drones with the right number of "anti"s in their name to one-up whatever the other side is flying.

War. War always recurses.
posted by No-sword at 12:14 AM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I had a lunch conversation with some aeronautical engineers one time in the early 2000's. They predicted you'd have to use lasers to shoot down UAVs because a high-performance UAV would be able to out-maneuver any missile. It turns out that even though missiles are really fast, they have small control surfaces, which limits their ability to turn. UAVs, on the other hand, have the control surfaces of a fighter jet, lightning fast reflexes of a computer, and no onerous requirement to limit the g-force during turns to avoid killing the pilot, meaning they can see a missile coming and dodge it with near perfection.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 12:17 AM on November 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


The payload's going to be titchy, though, and you won't have the kinetic energy of a missile.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:33 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eventually every major military in the world is going to be dedicated to building drones and anti-drone lasers, and somebody's going to get conquered by ten thousand men on horseback with sabers.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:49 AM on November 4, 2014 [29 favorites]


Mosquito nets and confetti cannons.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:59 AM on November 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


Sorry, what happened to anti-aircraft guns? Couldn't you just wire up an old fashioned anti-aircraft weapon to radar or whatever and a computer and blow them out of the sky?
posted by Canageek at 2:18 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


...don't call them drones!

Why? Does it hurt their feelings?

Oh -- I see, the people who are selling civilian versions are bothered by the "military connotations" of drone. That's too bad.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:33 AM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Popular Science writer Kelsey Atherton, who writes weekly roundups of unmanned-aircraft news called “Keeping up with the droneses,” said opponents of the term should give up. “The battle is over and drone won,” he said.

Giving up is the last thing the sort of person who gets het up about this sort of thing will ever do (see: hackers).
posted by thelonius at 2:33 AM on November 4, 2014


There's a sci-fi series by Peter F hamilton where most combat between spaceships is done via fleets of missile/drones called combat wasps.

There's a lot of entertaining silliness in those books, but I rather liked the image of the future of warfare being marshalling fleets of drones to attack your enemy and defeat his fleet of drones.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:34 AM on November 4, 2014


Update classic Anti-air with directed EMP weapons. There's an upper limit to how much shielding they can carry, and if the electronics fry, they fall out of the air. Easy peasy.
posted by mikelieman at 2:35 AM on November 4, 2014


Has anyone consulted with a hillbilly?
posted by Suggestive_Bobcat at 2:54 AM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'll continue to call them RBPKs: Remote Brown People Killers.
posted by signal at 3:53 AM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Faint of Butt: "Eventually every major military in the world is going to be dedicated to building drones and anti-drone lasers, and somebody's going to get conquered by ten thousand men on horseback with sabers."

In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots.
posted by barnacles at 4:07 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


everyone's drones are currently pretty easy to kill. The toughest one are all US or Israeli -- ones we won't be shooting down. None of them are the computer powered super maneuverable jets described above. Sure, there's a few Global Hawks that haven't crashed yet, and the Navy keeps testing it's next UCAV, but most of them aren't much more sophisticated than a radio controlled airplane from the hobby shop down the street. Most of them are lawnmowers that suddenly know how to fly and take pictures. Shooting the small ones down with small arms is perfectly reasonable. The medium to big ones fly out of small arms range, so you probably need to upgrade to the an anti-aircraft gun. If you're fancy, maybe you use EW against their drones, if you've thought ahead and protected your drones from EW (which the US has only just started worrying about).
posted by garlic at 4:10 AM on November 4, 2014


...don't call them drones!

I agree wholeheartedly, but not for the reasons being expressed. My problem with the term, from the beginning, was that the drone, as it exists in Indian music and the musics of many other people and places, is a beautiful thing. I liked it when the word only meant that.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:12 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


can't we just call them Imperial Probe Droids?
posted by indubitable at 4:31 AM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


The issue with drone warfare is that it dramatically changes the economics of warfare. When you can throw thousands upon thousands at a target at the same time conventional forces just won't be able to handle it. The Millennium Challenge of 2002 illustrated the US weakness to this kind of attack and that was at the scale of hundreds of small boats and mass cruise missile salvos.

Suddenly your multi billion dollar carrier group that costs 6.5 million a day to float is vulnerable to thousands of $500 remote controlled toy planes and boats.
posted by srboisvert at 4:39 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh -- I see, the people who are selling civilian versions are bothered by the "military connotations" of drone. That's too bad.

You know, there are non-sinister civilian applications of flying robots that really don't deserve this snide attitude. Any kind of inspection of tall or dangerous structures (radio masts, electrical pylons, tall buildings, bridges, etc.) could be done more safely and more frequently by a robot. There is also a lot of activity in applying these to agriculture for similar reasons.
posted by indubitable at 4:41 AM on November 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


I liked it when the word only meant that.

Except for bees.
posted by thelonius at 4:49 AM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is also a lot of activity in applying these to agriculture for similar reasons.

Yes, and it's not too far off from when Monsanto starts trying to use them to destroy "illegal" corn that self-planted in the neighbor's farm.
posted by jefflowrey at 4:51 AM on November 4, 2014


I liked it when the word only meant that.

DRONE NOT DRONES
posted by god hates math at 5:05 AM on November 4, 2014


When my father was plucking them from the sky in the early Seventies, he called them drones.
posted by MrGuilt at 5:22 AM on November 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


If the only things that can manoeuver fast enough to bring down a drone is another drone, then we're back to the Battle of Britain and dogfights. One misses, as one does so often, Iain Banks.

More seriously, comms and navigation will continue to be weak spots for any large drone fleet. Depending on task and technology, autonomous systems with visual/inertial nav will be able to be somewhat resistant to hostile EM environments, but I can't see AI being good enough to prosecute any sort of real-time dynamic aggressive mission beyond 'go to X and blow it up' - which we do now with all manner of missiles. Otherwise, we'll need lots of radio bandwidth and there Mr Maxwell says that anyone closer to your drone than you are will have an exponential advantage in how much radio muck they can chuck at it.
posted by Devonian at 5:29 AM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


jefflowrey: Yes, and it's not too far off from when Monsanto starts trying to use them to destroy "illegal" corn that self-planted in the neighbor's farm.
As much as we all love conspiratorial thinking, science denial, and the Alex Jones crazy train when its 'corporations' rather than 'gubmint' who are imagined as twirling their villainous mustaches; Monsanto has no need for drones like this even if that weren't pants on head crazy.

Monsanto has basically no shits to give for 'self-planted' anything beyond the minimal cost of the commitment they've made to clean up any reported cross-pollination caused by the negligence of their customers for free. They legally cannot sue, much less bomb, farmers for accidental contamination according to case law they manipulated specifically to prevent them from doing that because they never wanted to do that to begin with - having stood by a commitment they made 30 years ago never to do that. What Monsanto does sue for, however, is farmers getting Monsanto's seed from somewhere, intentionally planting it, and then intentionally taking advantage of the traits that Monsanto has breed into its seeds. When it happens, and is rare, it is fantastically easy for Monsanto to document and prove in court because taking advantage of Monsanto's traits involves buying a lot more of some pesticides, which would kill the seeds of Monsanto's competitors, and a lot less of the other generally more expensive, more harmful, and less effective pesticides that they replace.

All Monsanto needs to do to catch people stealing their seed traits is cross reference who has licences with who is buying the pesticide packages associated with their seeds and the thieves fall off the balance sheet. There is no need for drones, all it takes is a competent accountant and a round of discovery.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:30 AM on November 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


If they ever do a sequel to Top Gun, I would like to see it as Maverick taking on the role of Viper as a former combat ace now assigned to a flight school teaching a new generation of pilots how to dogfight with drones. The pilots all sit in air conditioned metal pods in the Nevada desert, but still exchange trash talk and talk about the "need for speed" but it now has a substance abuse edge. They still play volleyball but it's in the fantasy confines of a Playstation. Maverick has to struggle with disciplining Goose's adult son, Raptor, who has a tendency towards trigger happiness, and the reckoning is not in an airborne accident that results in an ejection seat malfunction, but in a live fire exercise where Raptor accidentally sends a Hellfire missile into a church wedding in Reno.
posted by bl1nk at 5:33 AM on November 4, 2014 [17 favorites]


Add a few high-fives and a Kenny Loggins soundtrack and you've got a deal.
posted by dr_dank at 5:58 AM on November 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


In 2114 war tactics have degenerated to making sure you deploy...

By 2114, drones will have been advanced down to the size of flies, and carry nano-nukes. They'll always be on-station, hiding in dark corners all across the globe, just waiting for orders to perform a quick, clean assassination, or to swarm with hundreds of fellow drone-flies to take out an entire village.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:11 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry, what happened to anti-aircraft guns? Couldn't you just wire up an old fashioned anti-aircraft weapon to radar or whatever and a computer and blow them out of the sky?

The medium to big ones fly out of small arms range, so you probably need to upgrade to the an anti-aircraft gun.


Uhh, no. AA guns like you're thinking of are only (marginally) effective up to a flight ceiling of maybe 20,000ft, any further up and you're talking about a missile. A standard Reaper drone can operate far higher than that, and fire a hellfire missile from 5 more miles away or drop a laser guided bomb without even approaching the danger zone from conventional AA guns.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:14 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Sorry, what happened to anti-aircraft guns? Couldn't you just wire up an old fashioned anti-aircraft weapon to radar or whatever and a computer and blow them out of the sky?"
Above a very low range, anti-aircraft fire was very straightforward to defeat with simple countermeasures based on the need of a gun to predict where an aircraft was going to be when the projectiles arrived. By periodically changing flight direction at intervals based on altitude and projectile speed, a UAV would become functionally impossible to hit.

Here is a really cool training film for WWII pilots on the theory and practice of evading antiaircraft fire, elegantly written to the mathematical literacy of an average American farm boy in the 40's.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:38 AM on November 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


garlic: ... US or Israeli -- ones we won't be shooting down.

Since both the US and Israel sell a lot of arms, I wouldn't be so sure of that.
posted by lodurr at 7:42 AM on November 4, 2014


AA for drones would probably go through a "new flack" phase, where the missile just tries to get pretty close and then blows up.

Kinetics might not be the main point, either. You could aerosolize some caustic chemicals or strong solvents, or tiny bomblets intended to get sucked into the intake or just degrade the airframe. Death by a thousand small or one lucky cut(s), as it were.
posted by lodurr at 7:45 AM on November 4, 2014


The issue with drone warfare is that it dramatically changes the economics of warfare.
More specifically, it turns warfare into economics. One of the biggest concerns in warfare has always been morale: how do you convince the soldiers you need to fight on your side that they need to risk their lives to fight on your side? That had a lot of complicated answers with interesting social and political consequences.

Eventually there will only be one answer: "sudo fight --on_side mine". It's the simplest answer imaginable, but I bet the consequences will be just as complicated.
posted by roystgnr at 8:00 AM on November 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Chinese announced a new system to automatically target and destroy small drones - quadcopters and the like - with a range of 1.3 miles. It's to keep protesters/advertisers from using them to fly banners across sporting events, and to keep them away from protected airspace. Also handy against the new anti-personnel drones in the same class.

As the power ramps up on modern laser weapons (the Germans have one that can do anti-missile duty) and targeting systems become more refined, air war - manned, drone or missile - will no longer be a viable thing. That includes air logistics.

So, the battle for control of the skies will need to go orbital, and only the US, Israel and China are really competing there, the US with unmanned orbital craft with a mission that can be measured in years and the Israelis and Chinese with anti-satellite weapons (ASAT).

Interesting times.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:12 AM on November 4, 2014


Yes, countering a Reaper with a hellfire missile would be tougher then AA. But that's also not the same thing as "$500 dollar drones are being countered with $100,000 missiles from $15 million platforms!". The $500 drones are garbage compared to a Reaper for the given task of blow some shit up that might be able to shoot back.
posted by garlic at 8:15 AM on November 4, 2014


so, yes, we need to take care not to conflate expensive and inexpensive drones. They have different purpsoes and different vulnerabilities, and killer-lasers simply aren't available (nor will they be) to all actors who might get attacked by drones.

You still need a plausible defense against a drone that serves as an anti-personnel gun platform. Or even just old-fashioned surveillance.
posted by lodurr at 8:37 AM on November 4, 2014


> drone-flies to take out an entire village

Beaked, baby-stealing tsetse flies!
posted by morganw at 10:44 AM on November 4, 2014


It turns out that even though missiles are really fast, they have small control surfaces, which limits their ability to turn. UAVs, on the other hand, have the control surfaces of a fighter jet, lightning fast reflexes of a computer, and no onerous requirement to limit the g-force during turns to avoid killing the pilot, meaning they can see a missile coming and dodge it with near perfection.

Fortunately(?) other drones are cheaper than missiles.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:48 AM on November 4, 2014


The obvious solution to stop drone warfare is to accelerate the consumption of resources needed to build, maintain and fuel the drones. Once we run out of fossil fuels and a few key minerals, the problem is solved, once and for all.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:40 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Drone Boning (via, NSFW, obvs.)
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2014


Yes, and it's not too far off from when Monsanto starts trying to use them to destroy "illegal" corn that self-planted in the neighbor's farm.

There's no need to do with drones what the legal system already accomplishes readily enough.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:09 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wonder Weapons and the Half-Dead, Catholicism.org, 11 March 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 1:14 PM on November 4, 2014


As the power ramps up on modern laser weapons [...] and targeting systems become more refined, air war - manned, drone or missile - will no longer be a viable thing.

People said the exact same thing in the 60s when the Soviet AA missiles like the Guideline proved to be very effective. Suddenly everyone was predicting that small fighter jets and dogfighting tactics were obsolete. Depending on who you asked, the future belonged to either heavy bombers firing standoff missiles from over the horizon, supersonic terrain-following interceptors, ballistic missiles, or spacecraft. (Naturally, predictions have always seemed to vary depending on what industry the predictor happens to be in.) None of those turned out to be entirely true.

There has been a cycle of advantage/disadvantage between attack aircraft and air defense that has gone back and forth since the first guy went up in a hot air balloon with some hand grenades and somebody else decided to shoot at him. I am very skeptical of any 'permanent advantage' accruing to either side; the pressures to create countermeasures and counter-countermeasures are extremely high.

Off the top of my head, a laser installation would be pretty vulnerable to a salvo attack using conventional HARM-type missiles, fired such that the laser's firing rate was overwhelmed. It is difficult to conceal the location of a laser installation, given that it fires in a straight line. Being near one might end up being pretty hazardous duty. And then of course there are efforts like Prompt Global Strike which basically replace the warhead of an ICBM with lead bricks, in the theory that a bunch of lead moving at 9,500 m/s is a real day-ruiner. Deflecting one would be...challenging.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:46 PM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


... modern laser weapons ...

Catch'em in a net? Not joking, low low tech. Deploy plain old fisherman's net hoisted aloft with small hot air or hydrogen balloons. Gotta be invisible to a drone and once it's flown into a net all it's control surfaces would be pretty darned ineffective. Have your fellow insurrectionists/freedom fighters spread out to clean up the evidence and I bet it takes a couple small wars before the high tech guys figure it out.
posted by sammyo at 4:25 PM on November 4, 2014


Well, yes: that's the problem of cheap drones versus expensive drones, right there. Expensive drones need laser weapons, but who's going to have them? Cheap drones, you can use shotguns, flak, nets, sticky bombs, etc.

And to the extent that they have to get close to do their jobs, expensive drones are vulnerable, too. E.g., it wasn't until the advent of really truly modern armored vehicles that you couldn't pose a serious risk to a $20M main battle tank with chutzpah and a bottle of gasoline.
posted by lodurr at 9:23 AM on November 5, 2014 [1 favorite]


"who's going to have" the drones, that is. not the laser weapons. though that question also illuminates part of the landscape.
posted by lodurr at 9:23 AM on November 5, 2014


I feel like mostly this is going to be bad for birds, as anything bigger than a golf-ball on radar will be blown out of the sky at military and government installations around the world.
posted by rosswald at 1:18 PM on November 5, 2014


I believe the Chinese just tested an anti-drone laser successfully.

China unveils a new anti-drone laser, but it’s the growing Chinese drone fleet that matters
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on November 7, 2014




If a drone was polished to a mirror finish, would it still be vulnerable to lasers?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:59 PM on November 7, 2014


well it would need to be reflecting in the IR spectrum, right? So as a defense against laser weapons, I would think not. But wouldn't some kind of scattering coating be effective against laser rangefinders or the like?
posted by lodurr at 4:07 AM on November 8, 2014


« Older The Rise of Fundamentalism   |   The Cosmic Distance Ladder Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments