Drones can do just about everything autonomously these days, but most systems still require human assistance to land, refuel and take off again. Now, an aerospace startup, Aerovel, hopes to change that with its hover-capable Flexrotor drone that will come with its own automated docking station. No human ground support needed, The Register reports.
The notion comes from Tad McGeer, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who created the small ScanEagle drone for fishermen and U.S. Navy SEALS. ScanEagle relied upon a pneumatic catapult launcher and "SkyHook" recovery pole, but the Flexrotor would do away with either requirement.
Instead, McGeer envisions his new drone using VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) abilities. Tiny wingtip thrusters would do the same job as a helicopter's tail rotor and counteract the torque of the drone's main propeller in hover-mode.
That would permit the Flexrotor to land in its auto-base, refuel and launch back into the air with no human intervention. One human handler could then oversee an entire swarm of drones, which translates into big economic savings from the reduced manpower.
More drones such as the familiar Predators flying recon and strike missions above Iraq and Afghanistan may also soon get automated landing systems, if only because the military wants to cut back on drone losses due to human operator error.
But the Flexrotor truly seems unique as a practically self-sufficient drone. We're just waiting for that future drone to announce: "All your auto-base belong to us."
[via The Register]
I have a preference to avoid hyperboles but this clearly opens the door to a terminator-like future. Is anyone thinking about safeguards. The barn door is open. What assurances can be given to prevent a super-intelligent computer from taking over its systems?
Assurances against Terminator Drones? Well yes, first you would need the super-intelligent computer to be created. Then of course, create the automated systems to refuel (find and refine the fuel) the refuel-er, build the drones, provide maintenance for the drones and fly the drones.
Until our computers get a lot smarter than they are currently, and can design and build robots unaided by people, including mining the raw materials and transporting those materials to the "automated robotic drone plant" where the automated systems design and create the alloys, gears, CPUs and all parts of the drones, and can assemble, program and fly them out the back door unaided by humans, not much to worry about.
Terminator movie creativity aside, that type of Sci-Fi technology is a very long way off...
the basic idea is a good and its about time someone finally got around to doing this. that being said I have to say that design is not the best he could use.
even if this uav does everything it’s meant to, and even more really, it's still won't be as smart as your average Bee is.
if You want to ask what assurances can be given so that some over dramatized “what if” can’t happen and all I can give you is the same assurances that some random “want to be” dictator won’t take over the system or just start WWIII because they feel like it. (a far more likely event after all)
But I can tell you there will be people and OTHER super-intelligent computers working to keeping that from happening and to fight if it does come about.
people want to say the barn door is open, I say there has never a barn to start with because that's not how reall life works.
@troybny Not to worry; the best IBM can do is simulate part of a small animal brain (ant, rodent or cat - whichever, not exactly Skynet material). You can start worrying about AI revolts in two or three decades, if not much later.
My worry is this: no machine lasts forever. There's a reason you have human maintenance crews go over aircraft before and after a flight. If one of these flexrotors gets damaged, or if an air filter starts accumulating dust and grit, it will need repairs. And trained human technicians can still beat automated systems at identifying and diagnosing these problems - even those that onboard diagnostic systems miss.
Frankly, I think the military (and often the press) make too big a deal about human error, especially when the aircraft is unmanned anyway. Machines aren't perfect; tell one of these automated landing programs to set down in the middle of a sand storm, or at night, or in any situation which they haven't been carefully programmed to handle, and you can bet there'll be plenty of software error.
Umm, shut off the fuel to the refueling station. Now it can't refuel. It's not like this thing lands at Exxon and pumps itself.
Worries averted. Next...
Wow. You guys watch way to many movies. All you need to know is that it's designed by a human, built by human and will need to be maintained by a human. IE. Read Toyota.
Why would you NOT want humans to fly planes anyways? I am pretty sure if you replace humans with robots and those might-be-good pilots will end up in the hood and start causing riots or something. This would further reduce the economy to nothing.
not really .45 because you would just replace those jobs with other ones, like with people who fix the uav's. (with that many uav's you would need more)
and this isn't about getting rid of man planes these would just be added to the nummber of planes in the sky. getting rid of manned fighters is still a long way off. but even that won't effect the economy that much.
DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE!!! THEY'RE NOT EVEN REAL PEOPLE. THEY ARE MORE AVATARS CREATE BY THE MACHINES TO MAKE YOU THINK THAT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS IN ITS INFANCY. TRUST NO ONE!!! THE MACHINES ARE AMONG US!
I think we have more to fear from Dick Cheney commanding an inexhaustible supply of killer robots then we do an imaginary AI experiment gone nuts.
Lycurgus: Please relax, take a stress pill, and step out onto your balcony.
I am more worried about the Bees @dex drako has!
Think about it, we got the Killer Bees spreading, and the ones dex has he claims to be smarter than a computer. (and we know they can learn new things)
Once they figure out how to get inside a drone and take control...
A single standard hive can have 100,000 bees in it, they could easily take over every drone and model airplane in the world!
They have enough members that the few that were slow learners and crashed wouldn't put a dent in the numbers.
Bees also are suicidal to begin with, will attack to the death over little things like hitting their "cave" with a stick, they have very strict rules of what outfits they wear (you ever seen a bee in shorts?), they hide "cells" for their "honey" in government buildings, nuclear power stations and trees in areas where our children play, they have tricked us into eating stuff they umm, excrete, spend their downtime chanting "hummmm" to their queen, and have been know to "swarm" and engulf entire parks full of innocent people (I know, the swarms don't actually attack anybody, but I think it's just practice runs). Maybe they went alphabetically, and they call themselves Bee-Qaida...
You thought "Snakes on a Plane" was bad! If a swarm of bees got past security, (maybe by all getting inside a trench-coat??) since they work well as a group they could slip through the air vents into the cockpit and drive out the pilots and then take over the controls by grabbing each others legs and pulling.
I know what I am talking about, I am a Beekeeper! Trust me! ;)
(this sceniaro is more likely to happen than Skynet! I am more worried about the people sitting behind the computers... We know they can do funny things when they have the power. :)
Oh, and do you think it's a coincidence that a large part of the Bee swarm is made up of a certain skill-set that they call "Drones"? They are just waiting for the queen to give the word!
Hehheh, conspiracy theories are fun to come up with... ;)
Folks, I do not mean to suggest tomorrow the robots will take over. I think I said this opens the door.
Sure there are no super-intelligent system but it is being worked on. Sure there are no robots yet able of supporting and maintaining these drones but they are also being worked on.
Do you need to see the robots knocking at your door before you said we should have thought about it?
I am not saying we should not continue forward, only that we should continue forward PRUDENTLY. That was not addressed in this article or by the comments above.
The way it goes in the real world is: for every human job we replace with a machine, we employ ten who build, maintain, oversee, etc... etc.. etc...
All those jobs may be "safer" or "easier" due to the machine doing the actual work... but it still humans doing the work indirectly...