Launching satellites from launchpads is cool and everything, but if DARPA has its way the military could soon be launching small satellites from airliners, granting the Pentagon the ability to put satellites aloft from virtually any airfield and at a fraction of the cost.
A controversial piece of facial recognition technology (and a PopSci “Best of What’s New 2010” alum) is rolling out in police stations across the country this fall, and naturally not everyone is happy about it.
The reason most laser systems aren’t practical for jobs outside of the lab--things like missile defense or interstellar empire building--is because of their low efficiency and high maintenance. Powerful lasers are by nature big lasers requiring a lot of per unit input per unit of output, and they tend to need highly controlled conditions to function consistently and flawlessly.
Hacks, cyber strategies, international cyber squads--we could just go ahead and dub this the “summer of cyber,” and it’s not even mid-June. On the heels of some high-profile hacks (including one at Lockheed Martin), a terse exchange between Google and China following a Gmail breach, and the U.S. DoD declaring that cyber attacks can be considered an act of war, NATO has now said it will develop a special cyber force.
Yet another wrinkle in the ongoing flood of cyber security stories emerging over the past couple of weeks: RSA Security--maker of those little keychain tokens that generate constantly changing passwords for users logging into secure networks--is offering increased security monitoring and the complete replacement of SecurID tokens to nearly all of its customers after evidence emerged that the recent cyber attack on Lockheed Martin was perpetrated in part using data stolen from RSA.
Of all the DARPA projects we follow here at PopSci--and regular readers know that we follow a lot of them--perhaps none has been quite so fascinating as the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program, a.k.a. the robotic hummingbird, which culminated earlier this year in a working prototype.
By Joshua Saul
Posted 05.20.2011 at 11:03 am 7 Comments
In 2006, Darpa, the Department of Defense’s R&D arm, commissioned AeroVironment, a company specializing in remote aircraft, to create an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) small enough to fly through an open window. AeroVironment had already built the 4.5-foot-wingspan Raven, which first saw combat over Afghanistan in 2003, but making a UAV so much smaller took five years and 300 different wing designs.
Reporting from the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Danger Room got some hands-on time with a technology that may or may not have been used in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound.
Explosives detection is a hot place for progressive science right now. One Colorado State researcher is breeding plants that change colors when certain molecules come in contact with them, and others are modeling chemical sensors on everything from butterfly wings to frog eggs. Now MIT may have trumped them all with a carbon nanotube and bee venom-based sensor that can detect explosives at the highest resolution: a single molecule.
Though Homeland Security is scrapping its color coded terror alert system, researchers at Colorado State University are working to make green the color of anti-terror vigilance. Biologists there have developed plant proteins capable of screening the air for hints of dangerous substances, including those given off by nearby explosives.
All of a sudden it was there, but then like any good stealth aircraft it vanished. Now the “Beast of Kandahar” has resurfaced in new photos, spurring aviation and defense wonks to once again speculate about the function and purpose of such a stealthy-looking unmanned aerial system.
It’s unclear which is the bigger news coming out of the Office of Naval Research; the fact that the Navy’s Free Electron Laser (FEL) program has demonstrated an injector capable of producing the necessary electrons to fuel a megawatt-class laser beam, or the fact that a next-generation future weapon under development by the military is months ahead of schedule. Both are good news for the Navy, which might begin lasing threats out of the sky sooner than it anticipated.
Dogs are smart, and they possess both instinctual and physical abilities to recognize and negotiate obstacles that in many cases surpass the abilities of humans. They are also easily distracted and not always the best at evaluating a situation and making decisions based on shifting circumstances. So researchers at Auburn University have created a new system that lets handlers to guide dogs remotely through a software system that translates commands into auditory and tactile stimuli.
Tank camouflage has come a long way since the good old days of painting them green and slapping a white star on the side. British defense tech firm BAE Systems is developing an active “e-camouflage” system that will employ a form of electronic ink to project imagery of a vehicles surrounding terrain, rendering the vehicle somewhat invisible to potential attackers.
When pictures circulated yesterday showing China’s “secret” stealth jet taking flight, there was speculation the photos could be fake. Not anymore. Aside from Chinese President Hu Jintao’s confirmation to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the J-20 has indeed conducted its first test flight, video of the maiden voyage has surfaced as well.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.