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Paragliding Military Drones Under Development 32

electric_mongoose writes "NewScientistTech has a story about paragliding military drones being developed by a US company called Atair Aerodynamics. These aircraft could be airdropped or ground launched and fly for over 48 hours carrying a 100 kilogram payload, including video surveillance equipment."
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Paragliding Military Drones Under Development

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  • Somehow I don't think that red parachutes will contribute to "carry out stealth missions" (from TFA)
    • Re:Red? (Score:3, Informative)

      by arivanov ( 12034 )
      This may be nitpicking, but the article is a bit misleading. The item described in it is not a classic paraglider. It is a powered ultralite parachute hang glider. Different cattle of fish altogether. It is not invisible, it is not silent and it has an IR signature larger than many planes. It is a perfect strela/stinger bait. The IR signature on it will allow a lock on from many km away and it is too slow and cumbersome to perform any evasive action.
      • Probably costs 10x less than a single stinger though, too.
        • With all the remote control? Doubt it. Even if it did, with this IR sig and speed you can take pot-shots at it with nearly any AA gun and hit it at leasure. Even a WW2 era AA system will have no problems with it provided that its sight has been upgraded for IR. A more modern AA like one of the russian ZSUs will simply take it out "in the meantime" with one volley and continue onto more important stuff.

          The only thing this may be usefull for are police operations.
  • by Captain Kirk ( 148843 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @03:57AM (#15872167) Homepage Journal
    As an Irishman who lived under British helicopters for a time, I can see that this technology makes the flight and surveillance capabilities that once were restricted to states available to all.

    Small irregular groups fighting state armies will use technology like this to balance their lack of cash and lack of supporters.

    A simple example would be that an INLA unit instead of shooting a Member of Parliamnet could use a drone to track him and a second drone to dive bomb him with 100kg of C4.

    The implication is that an organisation with little popular support and little capital could inflict heavy casualties on anyone it chooses. 100 kg is a LOT of C4. Even bank robbers could use this.

    I have deliberately used an example from northern Ireland to avoid people with strong views on Iraq or Israel assuming that I want an off topic debate. Just think bout how this technology changes the balance of power that has traditionally shaped our thinking on policing and military defenses.
    • by ImWithBrilliant ( 741796 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @06:02AM (#15872428)
      Nothing that can't be done by a bush airplane, and these things cost as much if not more than a used single engine or kit plane.

      I've seen the conceptual UAV project that the new hires at Dahlgren, Virginia worked on http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Successful_Test_Fl ights_Of_New_Armed_UAV.html [spacewar.com]

      This technology needs a lot of maturation before any combat application including terror: it is very noisy, unstable at speed on the ground, and requires a lot of ground support personnel. Holds exciting promise to a well equipped military for something like convey escort, but it's too high tech for backwater armies.
       
    • As I understand it, Scott Adams' The Religion War [wikipedia.org] has terrorists using GPS guided drones.
    • A simple example would be that an INLA unit instead of shooting a Member of Parliamnet could use a drone to track him and a second drone to dive bomb him with 100kg of C4.

      A single bullet costs a lot less than 100 kg of C4 and a drone. Now against a humvee or some other vehicle it would be useful, but it's still cheaper to dig the C-4 under the road and wait for someone to drive over it instead of using expensive drones for the task.
      • A bullet requires intelligence as to where the target will be and require stha assassin to face risk of being shot by bodyguards. Digging holes and filling them with explosives requires even better intelligence. The advantage is with the target - by changing his schedule he can make assassination much more difficult.

        A flying eye in the sky coupled with a flying bomb gives the assassin all the advantages. If this technology works, we will have to rethink how we do security. It won't change the world but
    • Given the noise that these things make, hopefully the member of parliment would notice (unless it is Mr. Ndeezi of the Australian parliament). The police or military would be able to detect an object like this pretty quickly and track it. I think there are better ways of delivering a 100kg explosive payload than an ultralight.
  • Flying Monkeys (Score:2, Interesting)

    Given the success of NASA in this area [sunpowercorp.com], I don't really see how anyone can compete with that braintrust and bankroll. Given the same requirements, I could likely build something similar to Atair's attempt in my garage. I'm very unimpressed. Plus, TFA seems like a weak PR attempt from a fringe, wannabe defense contractor.
  • Paragliding Monkey Drones

    Seeing a comment abut guerillas didn't help either :P

  • Paragliding flight is not trivial. Even in wide open areas, the thermal winds require active piloting to avoid the the canopy to lose inner presure. Unless they use DHV 1 type [www.dhv.de] canopies, but even then, the course would need to be corrected. They would need to come up with a really cool auto-pilot.
    • Powered parachutes are a lot less twitchy. They could also compensate by using a smaller wing and more power for better control (at the expense of fuel consumption). I am skeptical about the 48 hr flight claim though, most powered paragliders these days can run for about 4 hrs max. Also, there's little that can stop these from being sucked up to 20,000ft and frozen into an ice cube if they fly too close to a cu-nimb cloud :)

      GPS guided paragliders are nothing new. I remember visiting a small company at least
  • by CokoBWare ( 584686 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2006 @09:27AM (#15873532)
    • Leaflets
    • Food and medical supplies
    • A bomb
    • Starbucks coffee for the boys
    • Non-lethal weapons - like a sound generator
    • A spy - like James Bond
    • A mini-nuke
    • Chemical weapons
    • Leaflets
    • A "laser" (think Austin Powers)
    • Temporary Wi-Fi mesh hotspot
    • Pornography for the troops for those long and lonely nights
    There's more I'm sure...
    • I assume there'd be someone somewhere whose job would be to choose porn for those said troops.
    • "A "laser" (think Austin Powers)"

      Impossible...the weight of the shark and the water tank required to sustain is far more than 100kg.
    • Funny, but also true. The US army has always been the very model of morale, part of the reason it's so successfull. And things like (good) coffee and stuff like that really do help win wars. Canada had a Tim Hortons donut shop built in Afghanistan, for precisely that reason. Supply drops of Starbucks, pizza pops, and microbrew are the kind of thing that really keep the troops stompin'.
  • But wouldn't a smaller fixed wing setup be more stable and reliable? And perhaps be able to do ground launches instead of being dropped from a plane?
    • A buddy of mine told me about something a while back that was pretty cool. On his base they were testing a portable remote controlled airplane. Basically it was two backpacks. One backpack contained the plane all folded up, plus a big bungie cord, fuel, etc. The other backpack contained a hardened laptop with a joystick. The software for the plane was pretty simple and it could fly itself. Another thing that they were looking at was modifying it with a laser designator so you could use it to designate
  • by jlev ( 590861 )
    I've worked on a similar project at MIT, with the goal of open sourcing the hardware and software to make this capability available to media, NGOs and other non-state actors. Something like this would be incredbily useful in Afghanistan or Darfur for making food or medical supply drops, or distributing leaflets. We conducted test flights on the US/Mexico border looking for evidence of anti-immigrant groups that are known to promulgate unlawful violence against political and economic refugees there. While mu
  • A lazy terrorist with a shoulder rocket launcher could take one of these out while on his lunch break. I don't see why DARPA is so excited about this. I'm sure it'll be as effective as those stealth hot-air balloons they used in the Revolutionary War.
    • Rocket launcher? That would be lazy. You could take one of these out with a rifle. Or, for the coolness factor, a fire arrow!
    • Dropped from 50 miles away (preferably directly upwind), powered until altitude maintenance not as important as silence, capable of gliding in from a mile or so lateral and 2 miles up, couple that with some timing, minimal radar signature - you'd better have some *sharp* observers and operators to detect one of these in your area, and by the time you do, it's probably too late. Poor man's stealth, true, but stealthy nonetheless...

      (irony: capcha code for this reply is "disobey")
  • In German, but you get the idea from the pictures:
    http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/mensch/0,1518,4 27494,00.html [spiegel.de].

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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