Every day, people find new places where they shouldn't fly drones. Earlier this week, it was the White House grounds. Before that, a meth-smuggling remote control copter crashed just south of San Diego. There are even maps of where not to fly drones. Now, in a new, short PSA, the Federal Aviation Administration very clearly says where not to fly: the Super Bowl
This CCTV 7 broadcast from October 2013 shows a CH-3 UCAV firing a AR-1 anti-tank missile at a ground target. While the U.S. and allies have been reluctant to export UCAV technology, China has been far less shy, with Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as probable customers already.
DALER is a flying wing that swoops like a bat in the sky, and wobbles forward like a bat on the ground. Created by Ludovic Daler, the Deployable Air-Land Exploration Robot has flexible wings that contract, angling the body so that special wing tips, which spin forward, can allow the DALER to crawl one awkward, creepy step at a time.
This informational poster from AVIC shows the launch sequence of the artillery UAV. It's deployed from a 155mm shell (PLZ-04 howitzer) or 300mm rocket (A-100 rocket launcher), and when nearing deployment, the shell deploys a drag parachute to slow down. At the slower speed, the shell splits open so the drone can safely deploy. Despite the drone's small size, its sensors are capable enough of detecting specific targets like the M1A2 Abrams tank.
In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama mentioned drones exactly once. Out of respect for human dignity, he said, our use of drones should be “properly constrained.” When he said “constrained,” Obama was referring to military drones, not toy drones, but now, he might have a personal interest in constraining smaller ones. Early this morning, while the president was away visiting India, the Secret Service found a crashed drone on the south lawn of the White House.
But the trends that dominated robotics in 2014 weren't flash-in-the-pan fads. Last year's embarrassing drone antics, from buzzing sporting events to crashing in national parks, already seem quaint compared to the meth-hauling drone discovered in Mexico this week. And the climate of AI panic created last year by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking has already spilled over into 2015, with the disastrous coverage of an open letter on AI safety, and $10M in funding from Musk himself towards research that would avert a superintelligent apocalypse. Hollywood, meanwhile, is still oscillating between the occasional fascinating thought experiment about intelligent machines, and its standard fever dreams of killbots as blood-thirsty as they are boring.
Drones work best operating in packs. Last year, a study by the RAND corporation showed that when two or more drones are tracking the same target, they are much more successful at staying on its trail. Right now, however, flying drones is very labor intensive, with each drone requiring a team of pilots and observers. DARPA wants to solve both of these problems by putting more drones in the sky -- with fewer humans controlling them.