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Defense Technology Monitor - No. 8

Edited by Richard Harrison and Liam Bobyak
October 11, 2016


DRONES, COMING SOON TO A LAB NEAR YOU
Could test tube drones be on the horizon? Currently in its concept stage, BAE systems is developing a radical new device known as "chemputer" to design and grow new drones and other military hardware. The chemputer is essentially a vat of chemicals that can be digitally manipulated to grow drones by assembling them molecule by molecule in the vat. 

The construction process would be similar to 3D printing, but the materials would be formed at a chemical level. Artificial Intelligence would take over the designing process and create the best designs to fit the desired functionality. The process could drastically reduce both development and construction time for the desired hardware, and will be particularly useful in the development of smaller UAVs, which require more precision and technical development than traditional piloted aircraft. (
Futurism, July 6, 2016) 

RUSSIA'S ROBOTIC REVOLUTION
Russian military research and development is on track to eventually make traditional soldiers obsolete. In recent demonstrations, the Russian Advanced Research Foundation (ARF, Russia's equivalent to the Pentagon's DARPA) has demonstrated progress in creating humanoid drones capable of operating on the battlefield. If all goes according to plan, humanoid robots will eventually be able to run, jump, overcome obstacles, and even pilot small personal vehicles. 

Lt. Gen. Andrey Grigoriev, the head of ARF, recently stated, "I see a greater robotization [of war], in fact, future warfare will involve operators and machines, not soldiers shooting at each other on the battlefield." He envisions a future where humans are removed from the dangers of the battlefield completely and robots will battle on land, sea, water, and space. (
RT, July 6, 2016) 

A NEW MILITARY MISSION: COUNTERING ROBOTIC SENSOR SYSTEMS
In the wake of a recent accident involving a Tesla vehicle (in which the car crashed because its self-driving function could not distinguish the white side of a tractor trailer from open space), infrastructure theorist and author Geoff Manaugh has noted that such robot failures could become important in the future of warfare. Manaugh's argument is compelling; in a world in which robots will play an expanding role in warfare, creating simple countermeasures that are able to interfere with their detection and proper functioning could have an important impact on warfighting. Such countermeasures could be as simple as making a surface extra reflective or extra light absorbent in order to confuse robotic 3D cameras and LiDAR. Understanding these simple countermeasures and developing more elaborate techniques could very soon become a critical element in combating armed robots on the battlefield. (
Popular Science, July 7, 2016) 

MIND CONTROL AND DRONE FLEETS
Collectively controlling a group of drones may now be possible, thanks to research at the Human-Oriented Robotics and Control (HORC) lab at Arizona State University. While using a joystick allows users to control one drone at a time, it does not currently allow group control. But mind control may bridge that gap, and the HORC has developed a helmet with 128 sensors to monitor the brain waves of a user who thinks about discrete motions like forward, down, or dispersal. By mapping these controls, a single user could simply "think" how they want drones to move. Controlling a group of drones has many applications, including war fighting (such as swarming enemy defense systems), search and rescue operations, and directing multiple sensors at one target to increase precision and accuracy. Individual control of multiple drones, meanwhile, can reduce the number of pilots needed for various applications. (London 
Daily Mail, July 19, 2016) 

HOW RUSSIA PLANS TO TAKE THE HIGH GROUND
Allegedly capable of firing hypersonic ballistic missiles from space, Russia's most advanced piece of military hardware is the prototype PAK-DA stealth bomber. The plane, currently undergoing testing, is capable of flying at hypersonic speeds to an altitude of 60,000 feet. From that height, the plane would reportedly be able to fire both conventional and nuclear-tipped hypersonic missiles back to earth (once such ordinance is developed). Because there are currently no systems capable of intercepting a hypersonic missile, the PAK-DA bomber - once operational - would become the world's preeminent first strike capability. (
International Business Times, July 14, 2016)