Intelligence agencies, the spies and spooks and analysts grouped under three letter acronyms, exist in part to answer a difficult question that dates back to antiquity: Is it possible to predict the future, and, if so, how do we do it? A study published this month in the Journal of Experimental Psychology answers the question at least in part: Prediction is a skill, but it takes a special environment to develop that skill.
Killer robots are a reliable staple of science fiction, a culmination of humanity's technological prowess turned against civilization as a cruel, cosmic joke. While this is a good premise for a movie, developments in military robotics are often seen as heralding a once-fictional robocalypse. However, a video released today, from Russian state-owned news channel RT, is a reassuring sign that deadly robots are still at best a thing of the future.
When Mike Adams called from the X-15 that he was in a spin, no one listening on the ground could believe it. The rocket-powered airplane was traveling around four times the speed of sound in the thin upper atmosphere. How could it be spinning? His wife and mother, both at Edwards that day, were quietly led out of the viewing area adjacent to the control room while ground crews tried to figure out what was going on. Less than a minute Adams' first mention of a spin, telemetry from the aircraft ceased. Another minute later chase planes saw dust kicked up in the desert below. On November 15, 1967, Adams became the X-15's first and only victim.
For every brand new quadcopter suddenly flying through the neighborhood, there is sure to be an angry neighbor, eager to remove the buzzing pest from the sky. Rapere is a concept that should delight every grinch next door: an anti-drone drone that, at the push of a button, flies away to attack any nearby flying craft.
As research for our January 2015 feature story about stealth new aircraft, we created virtual models of the coolest new drones in the sky—the Northrop Grumman RQ-180 and the BAE Systems Taranis. Both are top-secret projects. In fact, the RQ-180 is so “black-world” that it's only been spotted once or twice, flying high over the U.S. Air Force's remote Area 51 in Nevada. Nonetheless, leaked information exists on both projects, and in the right hands it can speak volumes about their capabilities.
Despite headlines claiming otherwise, cyberwar is not epitomized by stealing Twitter passwords or publishing confidential emails. For militaries fighting wars in the future, the real cyber danger will be hostile access to secure networks, jammed signals, and fooled sensors on war machines manned and unmanned. To better understand how these attacks will play out, the Air Force Research Laboratory is soliciting papers for creating and then overcoming a virtual hostile sky.