Monday, February 11, 2008

Gaze Upon The Future Through DARPA Eyes

DARPA Vision: "Unblinking" Spy Drones, Veggie-Powered Killer Bots
By Noah Shachtman

The Pentagon's far-out science division wants an unmanned, "unblinking eye from above" to watch over an area for "weeks, months, even years." And if that doesn't do the surveillance trick, veggie-eating killer robots on the ground will pick up the slack. You may now break out the tinfoil hats.

Today's Global Hawk reconnaissance drones can stay in the air for up to 40 hours. DARPA Program Manager Wade Pulliam would like to increase that by 1,000 times, or more -- getting a robotic surveillance plan that can stay in the air for 5 years, or 44,000 hours, straight. The project is called "Vulture."

It'll all be worth it, Pulliam promises, to have an "unblinking view circling indefinitely just 12 miles above target." Not even a team of satellites could scope foes out so well, he insists. And unlike satellites, the Vulture might be able to "strike" targets, too.

The Vulture won't be the only machine that stares at enemies, if Pulliam has his way. He'd like to see teams of autonomous, camouflaged ground vehicles, "slowly working their way into position" and then "lying in wait to strike when ordered." Of course, these killer 'bots can't exactly be refueled -- it'd blow their cover. So maybe the machine could power up by consuming organic material from the surrounding environment."

Either way, the idea is to not allow potential foes "an inch of space, not allow them a moment's rest, not allow them to have an easy breath."

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