United States

Prototype Wave Energy Device Passes Grid-Connected Pilot Test 39 39

coondoggie writes: A prototype wave energy device advanced with backing from the Energy Department and U.S. Navy has passed its first grid-connected open-sea pilot testing. According to the DOE, the device, called Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy's Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This pilot testing is now giving U.S. researchers the opportunity to evaluate the long-term performance of the nation’s first grid-connected 20-kilowatt wave energy converter (WEC) device to be independently tested by a third party—the University of Hawaii—in the open ocean, the DOE said.
Robotics

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Was a Bust; Let's Try Again 33 33

malachiorion writes: The DARPA Robotics Challenge, the biggest and most well-funded international robotics competition in years, was a failure. After years of grueling work on the part of brilliant roboticists around the world, and millions in funding from the Pentagon, the finals came and went with little to no coverage from the mainstream media. The only takeaway, for those who aren't extremely dialed into robotics, is that a ton of robots fell down in funny ways. There were winners, but considering how downgraded the tasks were, compared to the ones initially announced in 2012, it was closer to the first DARPA Grand Challenge, where none of the robot cars finished, than the Urban Challenge, which kicked off the race to build deployable driverless cars. So just as DARPA regrouped after that first fizzle of a race, here's my argument for Popular Science: It's time to do it again, and make falling, and getting up, mandatory.
The Military

Army Exoskeleton Prototype Helps Soldiers Learn To Shoot 85 85

An anonymous reader writes: Infantrymen live by their shooting skills, but becoming an expert marksman can take a long time. U.S. Army researchers are working on a way to improve these skills with the help of the MAXFAS, an arm exoskeleton that uses arm braces to correct involuntary arm shakes. Designed At the U.S. Army Research Laboratory by Dan Baechle, the MAXFAS has been shown to improve aim even after users have taken it off. "Soldiers need to be able to aim and shoot accurately and quickly in the chaos of the battlefield," Baechle said. "Training with MAXFAS could improve Soldiers' accuracy, and reduce current time and ammunition requirements in basic training."
The Military

Naval Research Interested In Bringing 3D Printing To Large Scale For Ships 44 44

coondoggie writes: The Navy this month will outline what it is looking for from additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology as way to bolster what it terms "fleet readiness." The Office of Naval Research will on July 15 detail its Quality Metal Additive Manufacturing (Quality MADE) program that will aim to "develop and integrate the suite of additive manufacturing software and hardware tools required to ensure that critical metallic components can be consistently produced and rapidly qualified in a cost effective manner."
Medicine

The Epidemic May be Over, But Liberia Has New Ebola Cases 11 11

Three new cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia. Reuters reports that despite the declared end to the Ebola outbreak in that country in May, the medical community is speculating that a cluster of infectious carriers somehow survived longer than was previously believed possible, or that there is a previously unknown means of transmission. Health officials "were monitoring 175 people believed to have come into contact with the three cases, though none had yet exhibited symptoms of the disease." The report notes that "A U.S. military operation aimed at helping Liberia's government counter the outbreak has mostly withdrawn. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a U.S. health body, said it was working with local authorities to study the origin of the cases and stop the virus spreading."
The Military

Test Pilot: the F-35 Can't Dogfight 834 834

schwit1 sends this report from the War Is Boring column: A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can't turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy's own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January. And to add insult to injury, the JSF flier discovered he couldn't even comfortably move his head inside the radar-evading jet's cramped cockpit. "The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft." That allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him. The test pilot's report is the latest evidence of fundamental problems with the design of the F-35 — which, at a total program cost of more than a trillion dollars, is history's most expensive weapon. Your tax dollars at work.
United States

US Military To Develop Star Wars-Style Hoverbikes With British company 108 108

New submitter amalcolm writes: The U.S. military may soon be zooming around on Star Wars-style hoverbikes. U.K. based Malloy Aeronautics has joined forces with Survice Engineering to develop the vehicles for the Department of Defense. "The Department of Defense is interested in Hoverbike technology because it can support multiple roles," said Mark Butkiewicz, who works for Survice. "It can transport troops over difficult terrain and when it's not used in that purpose it can also be used to transport logistics, supplies, and it can operate in both a manned and unmanned asset."
Transportation

Privately Owned Armored Trucks Raise Eyebrows After Dallas Attack 609 609

HughPickens.com writes: Manny Fernandez writes in the NY Times that the scores of military and police-style vans, trucks and cars offered for sale on Craigslist and eBay have raised concerns for some law enforcement officials, particularly after the Dallas attack on a police headquarters. Officials say the vehicles appear to be legal for the most part, so there is little they can do. Jeff Funicello, for example, is selling his black 1975 GMC armored truck on Craigslist. The body is armored, and the windows are bulletproof. It has sliding portholes to point rifles from and a sprinkler system inside. Long ago, it transported money, and it was once the target of a shootout in the 1980s. Of course, people have been driving reinforced cars long before the Dallas attack on a police headquarters. But the celebrities and executives who install bulletproof windows and other types of armor on their vehicles often do not want it noticed. Celebrity clients generally demand that the exteriors of their luxury armored vehicles look normal so they blend in. However those who buy and sell armored vans want people to look. And the popularity of apocalyptic movies and television shows has put a new twist and added a macabre cachet to such vehicles "This is America," says Funicello. "I should be able to have a howitzer or a bazooka if I want one. If I wanted to buy a fire truck, I could."
Space

Should Nuclear Devices Be Kept On Hand To Protect Against Near Earth Objects? 272 272

Lasrick writes: Seth Baum ponders whether nuclear devices should be kept on hand for the purpose of destroying near-Earth objects (NEOs) that pose a threat to the planet. Baum acknowledges that "The risk posed by NEOs is not zero, but it is small relative to the risk posed by nuclear weapons." Even so, Baum writes, since the consequences of an NEO hitting the earth would be catastrophic, keeping 10 or 20 nuclear devices available might be a good idea, and would be "insignificant compared to the thousands now held in military arsenals."
Social Networks

Russian Troops Traced To Ukrainian Battlefields Through Social Media 180 180

New submitter wienerschnizzel writes: Vice News has released a report on how they were able to trace a member of the regular Russian army from his base near the Ukrainian border toward the battlefields in the contested territory in eastern Ukraine, then back to his home in Siberia using the pictures he uploaded on his social media profile.

The methodology used is based on a report by the Atlantic Council think tank released earlier this year, which asserts that information on the movement and operations of the regular Russian troops can be easily gathered from publicly available sources (such as the social media). The Russian government still denies any involvement of Russian troops in the fights in Ukraine.
The Military

USAF Cuts Drone Flights As Stress Drives Off Operators 298 298

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that the U.S. is being forced to cut back on drone flights as America's drone operators are burning out. The Air Force is losing more drone pilots than they can train. "We're at an inflection point right now," says Col. James Cluff, the commander of the Air Force's 432nd Wing. Drone missions increased tenfold in the past decade, relentlessly pushing the operators in an effort to meet the insatiable demand for streaming video of insurgent activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones, including Somalia, Libya and now Syria. The biggest problem is that a significant number of the 1,200 pilots are completing their obligation to the Air Force and are opting to leave. Colonel Cluff says many feel "undermanned and overworked," sapped by alternating day and night shifts with little chance for academic breaks or promotion.

What had seemed to be a benefit of the job, the novel way the crews could fly Predator and Reaper drones via satellite links while living safely in the United States with their families, has created new types of stresses as they constantly shift back and forth between war and family activities and become, in effect, perpetually deployed. "Having our folks make that mental shift every day, driving into the gate and thinking, 'All right, I've got my war face on, and I'm going to the fight,' and then driving out of the gate and stopping at Walmart to pick up a carton of milk or going to the soccer game on the way home — and the fact that you can't talk about most of what you do at home — all those stressors together are what is putting pressure on the family, putting pressure on the airman," says Cruff. The colonel says the stress on the operators belied a complaint by some critics that flying drones was like playing a video game or that pressing the missile fire button 7,000 miles from the battlefield made it psychologically easier for them to kill. "Everyone else thinks that the whole program or the people behind it are a joke," says Brandon Bryant, a former drone camera operator who worked at Nellis Air Force Base, "that we are video-game warriors, that we're Nintendo warriors."
Businesses

US Navy Solicits Zero Days 59 59

msm1267 writes: The US Navy posted a RFP, which has since removed from FedBizOpps.gov, soliciting contractors to share vulnerability intelligence and develop zero day exploits for most of the leading commercial IT software vendors. The Navy said it was looking for vulnerabilities, exploit reports and operational exploit binaries for commercial software, including but not limited to Microsoft, Adobe, [Oracle] Java, EMC, Novell, IBM, Android, Apple, Cisco IOS, Linksys WRT and Linux, among others. The RFP seemed to indicate that the Navy was not only looking for offensive capabilities, but also wanted use the exploits to test internal defenses.The request, however, does require the contractor to develop exploits for future released CVEs. "Binaries must support configurable, custom, and/or government owned/provided payloads and suppress known network signatures from proof of concept code that may be found in the wild," the RFP said.
Space

75% of Russia's Satellite Electronics Come From US 127 127

schwit1 writes: One Russian aerospace industry expert noted today that three-quarters of all their satellite electronics comes from the United States: "According to [Nikolay Testoyedov], up to 75 percent of the electronic components for Russian satellites come from the US. Consequently, if it retaliates should Moscow refuse to sell RD-180 rocket motors to Washington — which Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has threatened — Russia's satellite program would be frozen for at least two years. "The imported electronic components in our satellites represent 25 to 75 percent of the total in communications; in military ones, somewhat less; in commercial ones, more," Testoyedov says. Of these imported components, approximately 83-87 percent come from the United States thus giving Washington the whip hand." If we stop providing these electronics he estimates that after their present stock runs out in about a year it would take at least two years before Russia could replace these American-made parts. As the above linked article at The Interpreter mentions, this is relevant in part because of recent talks about U.S. sanctions which could affect this kind of commerce.
Software

Missing Files Blamed For Deadly A400M Crash 253 253

An anonymous reader writes: Think you had a bad day when your software drivers go missing? Rejoice, you get to live! A fatal A400M crash was linked to data-wipe mistake during an engine software update. A military plane crash in Spain was probably caused by computer files being accidentally wiped from three of its engines, according to investigators. Plane-maker Airbus discovered anomalies in the A400M's data logs after the crash, suggesting a software fault. And it has now emerged that Spanish investigators suspect files needed to interpret its engine readings had been deleted by mistake.This would have caused the affected propellers to spin too slowly causing loss of power and eventually, a crash.
Power

Ex-CIA Director: We're Not Doing Nearly Enough To Protect Against the EMP Threat 182 182

An anonymous reader writes: Last week saw the release of an open letter written to President Obama by a committee of notable political, security and defense experts — which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others — on the country's concerning level of vulnerability to a natural or man-made Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP has very real potential for crippling much of our electrical grid instantaneously. Not only would that immediately throw the social order into chaos, but the timeline to repair and restart the grid in most estimated scenarios would take months to a year or more.

Executive Director of the EMP Task Force Dr Peter Pry said, "Well, the short answer to [why we aren't defending against EMPs] is called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. They used to be a trade association or a lobby for the 3,000 electric utilities that exist in this country. ... There is no part of the U.S. government that has the legal powers to order them to protect the grid. This is unusual, because in the case of every other critical infrastructure, there's an agency in the U.S. government that can require them to take actions for public safety. For example, the Food & Drug Administration can order certain medicines kept off shelves to protect the public safety. ... The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn't have those legal powers or authorities."
The Military

Combating Climate Risks With 3D Printing 85 85

Lasrick writes: While security risks that emanate from climate change will not always require military responses, the technological innovations that 3D printing makes possible can significantly improve the tools available for both militaries and civilian institutions when responding to, preparing for, and mitigating those risks. These benefits come in five main forms, and this article details what they are and how each may work: Rapid response and prototyping; Democratization of preparedness and response; De-globalizing hazards; Increasing accessibility; Enhancing energy efficiency. The authors clearly believe that 3D printing will be a key tool in mitigating effects from natural disasters: "If the United States, including the Department of Defense, truly believes that climate change presents 'immediate risks to national security,' then developing all the tools necessary to combat those risks should be a high priority. 3D printing, given its potential utility in helping us adapt to and mitigate climate risks, and doing so cost-effectively, is one tool that deserves close attention."
United States

Watch the US Navy Test Its Electromagnetic Jet Fighter Catapult 217 217

An anonymous reader sends word via Engadget that the U.S. Navy has tested its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System for the first time with a "dead-load" (a wheeled steel sled that weighs as much as a jet) aboard the Gerald R. Ford carrier. The article goes on to say: "Its advantages over traditional catapults that use steam instead of electromagnetic energy include smoother acceleration and its ability to place less stress on the aircraft — plus, it was designed to work even with more advanced carriers that the military will surely use in the future." You can watch a video of the "dead-load" testing here.
The Military

US Bombs ISIS Command Center After Terrorist Posts Selfie Online 286 286

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Everstine writes at Air Force Times that U.S. intelligence officers were able to locate and bomb an Islamic State command center based on a photo and comments in social media. "The [airmen are] combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command," said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command. "And in some social media, open forum, bragging about command and control capabilities for Da'esh, ISIL, And these guys go 'ah, we got an in.' So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three JDAMS take that entire building out. Through social media. It was a post on social media. Bombs on target in 22 hours."

Carlisle was careful to not go into great detail about the how the information was gathered and what additional effort went into targeting those bombs. It's easy to imagine that in addition to the information gleaned from the initial post that the Air Force used satellite and drone reconnaissance data. It's also possible that U.S. intelligence could have actively engaged with the original poster in order to draw out information. Attackers and researchers have shown time and time again that simply asking a target for information—either by posing as a trusted individual or using carefully created phishing attacks—works even better than fancy information-stealing digital attacks.
Security

100kb of Unusual Code Protecting Nuclear, ATC and United Nations Systems 145 145

An anonymous reader writes: For an ex-academic security company still in the seeding round, startup Abatis has a small but interesting roster of clients, including Lockheed Martin, the Swiss military, the United Nations and customers in the civil nuclear and air traffic control sectors. The company's product, a kernel driver compatible with Windows, Linux and Unix, occupies just 100kb with no dependencies, and reportedly achieves a 100% effectiveness rate against intruders by preventing unauthorized I/O activity. The CEO of Abatis claims, "We can stop zero day malware — the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns." The software requires no use of signature files, white-listing, heuristics or sandboxing, with a separate report from Lockheed Martin confirming very significant potential for energy savings — up to £125,000 per year in a data center with 10,000 servers.
Medicine

Tiny Fantastic Voyage Inspired Robots Are Starting To Get Reasonably Mature 27 27

szotz writes: No shrinking machine in an underground military lab (as far as we know). And no Raquel Welch. Still there is a growing microrobotics movement underway, looking at ways that tiny, untethered robots might be used to perform medical interventions in the human body. There have been piecemeal reports for years now of various designs, such as microscallops that can swim through the eye and bots that can be pushed around by bacteria flagella. This article in IEEE Spectrum gives a round-up of recent progress and looks at some of the difficulties that arise when you try to make things tiny and still have them retain a modicum (or give them more than a modicum) of function.