This year, the world saw a long-theorized weapon in action: a commercial drone, like a person might find at Best Buy, dropping a bomb on a target in Iraq. These drone bombers, used by the ultra-violent quasi-state ISIS in Iraq and Syria, are the flashiest combination of modern technologies with the modern battlefield. Cheap, camera-carrying robots, put to nefarious ends by a group that could never otherwise dream of fielding an air force. Dropping grenades isn't the deadliest thing an insurgent group can do with a small flying robot, but it leads to a very important question: What, exactly, is the answer to such a drone?
The laws of physics dictate that aircraft carriers have to be giant targets. Fixed-wing planes, faster and more efficient than their helicopter brethren, need runways to take-off and land, and those runways have to be long enough for the plane to generate lift before it's hurtled (with catapult assistance) out over the sea and into the sky. What if the Navy wants to put a fixed-wing drone on a smaller ship, without the space for a full runway? Enter “SideArm,” a robot arm that fits in a shipping container and can snag a drone right out of the sky.
Intel, still a leading microchip maker, is a company built around mining an almost infinite resource: increasingly powerful, increasingly cheap computing power. In 2017, computers and smart devices are ubiquitous, and it's been 26 years since the company launched its “Intel Inside” campaign to sell people on computer guts. How can a company so many just take for granted continue to impress... and even excite?
Bats are strange creatures. They dart through the sky on wings made of skin, their tiny bodies swooping and swerving as they hunt insects for hours on end. They boast a compact, efficient, lightweight form, which makes them an ideal inspiration for a flapping robot. Bat Bot, created by researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Coordinated Science Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, is a high-tech flying machine inspired by bat-like efficiency.
The latest bomber to make its debut over Iraq has four engines, no cockpit, and a flight time limited by the length of its battery. ISIS, the radical insurgent group holding territory in both Syria and Iraq, is fighting for its life in Mosul, the large city in Northern Iraq it has held since 2014. Most of the weapons ISIS uses are are familiar, if still horrific: rifles and mortars, artillery and suicidal car bombs. To that arsenal, ISIS recently added commercial drones, converted into tiny bombers.