DNA: Next Military Battleground?

Posted by on January 19th, 2011

Combine cheaper DNA sequencing prices with the fact that U.S. soilders are not protected by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and this happens:

The report, prepared by a defense science advisory panel known as JASON and reported by Secrecy News and HuffPost’s Dan Froomkin, among others, recommends that the military take advantage of the rapidly falling cost of gene sequencing by preparing to engage in the mass sequencing of the genomes of all military personnel. …

Specifically, the report recommends that the Pentagon begin collecting sequencing soldiers’ DNA for “diagnostic and predictive applications.” It recommends that the military begin seeking correlations between soldiers’ genotypes and phenotypes (outward characteristics) “of relevance to the military” in order to correlate the two. And the report says — without offering details — that both “offensive and defensive military operations” could be affected.

Article via the Huffington Post.

DARPA’s SCENICC to make future soldiers omniscient

Posted by on December 23rd, 2010

From WIRED’s Danger Room:

In a solicitation released today, Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research branch, unveiled the Soldier Centric Imaging via Computational Cameras effort, or SCENICC. Imagine a suite of cameras that digitally capture a kilometer-wide, 360-degree sphere, representing the image in 3-D (!) onto a wearable eyepiece.

You’d be able to literally see all around you, including behind yourself, and zooming in at will, creating a “stereoscopic/binocular system, simultaneously providing 10x zoom to both eyes.” And you would do this all hands-free, apparently by barking out or pre-programming a command (the solicitation leaves it up to a designer’s imagination) to adjust focus.

Then comes the Terminator-vision. Darpa wants the eyepiece to include “high-resolution computer-enhanced imagery as well as task-specific non-image data products such as mission data overlays, threat warnings/alerts, targeting assistance, etc.” Target identified: Sarah Connor… The “Full Sphere Awareness” tool will provide soldiers with “muzzle flash detection,” “projectile tracking” and “object recognition/labeling,” basically pointing key information out to them.

And an “integrated weapon sighting” function locks your gun on your target when acquired. That’s far beyond an app mounted on your rifle that keeps track of where your friendlies and enemies are.

The imaging wouldn’t just be limited to what any individual soldier sees. SCENICC envisions a “networked optical sensing capability” that fuses images taken from nodes worn by “collections of soldiers and/or unmanned vehicles.” The Warrior-Alpha drone overhead? Its full-motion video and still images would be sent into your eyepiece.

Keep reading..

New Body Printable Organic Body Armor is Twice as Strong as Kevlar

Posted by on November 25th, 2010

From Inhabitat:

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places. Case in point: scientists have just created a new super strong material based on the plaque found in Alzheimer’s patients’ brains. The new substance isn’t exactly the same as the plaque that causes the tragic disease, but it has a very similar chemical structure that is then coated with an additional protective layer. The tiny spheres that result are microscopic and when put together, form a printable substance that is tougher than steel, twice as tough as Kevlar and the hardest microscopic organic substance on Earth.

Thanks to vertigojones for the tip!

Robotic helicopter that can grasp a payload

Posted by on August 29th, 2010


Like the Grand Theft Auto RC missions come to life, this helicopter can grasp objects for transport. They don’t have to be a special size or shape, and it can lift them even if they are not centered. This is thanks to a load-balancing hand (originally developed as a prosthesis) that relies on flexible joints and a tendon-like closing mechanism. As you can see in the video, the light-weight chopper has an on-board camera so that the operator can see what is being picked up. This little guy has no problem lifting objects that are over one kilogram while remaining stable in the air.

Link and photo from hackaday.com.

See also:

The Incredible HULC

Posted by on January 23rd, 2010

In preparation for February’s Association of the US Army Winter Conference, Lockheed Martin has released a promotional video of the company’s proposed HULC (Human Universal Load Carrier) powered exoskeleton.

The HULC is a completely un-tethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton that provides users with the ability to carry loads of up to 200 lbs for extended periods of time and over all terrains. Its flexible design allows for deep squats, crawls and upper-body lifting. There is no joystick or other control mechanism. The exoskeleton senses what users want to do and where they want to go. It augments their ability, strength and endurance. An onboard micro-computer ensures the exoskeleton moves in concert with the individual. Its modularity allows for major components to be swapped out in the field. Additionally, its unique power-saving design allows the user to operate on battery power for extended missions. The HULC’s load-carrying ability works even when power is not available.

[Via Defense Tech]

Gryphon tactical wingsuits = covert death from above

Posted by on December 3rd, 2009

I really wasn’t sure what I wanted for Christmas until now.  In fact, this is just the sort of system a twenty-first century Santa needs.

From WIRED’s Danger Room:

…described as a modular upgrade for parachute systems for use in “high-altitude, high-opening” jump missions, typically carried out by Special Forces. This 6-foot wing gives a glide ratio of 5:1, which means that a drop from 30,000 feet will allow you to glide about 30 miles. The makers estimate that this would take around 15 minutes, giving an average speed of about 60 miles an hour.

“All equipment is hidden in a lifting body optimized for stealth, the radar-signature is extremely low,” says the Gryphon data sheet (PDF). “Detection of incoming Gryphon soldiers by airborne or ground radar will be extremely difficult.”

Gryphon has a guidance system and heads-up display navigation. Best of all, the company are looking at an option for bolting on small engines similar to those used in Yves Rossy’s setup. These will increase the range to more than 60 miles, but will also make it possible to cover long distances from low altitude so that the entire mission can be more stealthy.

Yes, so while Yvs Rossy (aka Fusion Man) won’t sell to the military, other companies are happy to.

thanks to my buddy Tone for the tip-off!


Judge Dredd ‘Black Box’ recorder/spy kit for guns unveiled

Posted by on November 16th, 2009

The idea is that the Black Box electronics would be installed internally in a void space such as the pistol grip of an assault rifle. (It “fits in any weapon type”, apparently.) The gadget would run on a non-replaceable battery lasting ten years or 100,000 shots – covering the weapon handily between major overhauls.

The initial uses of the Black Box would, according to FN, be in logistics and maintenance. The in-gun shot counter would keep track of how many rounds were being fired, updating a future soldier’s digital comm/puter system – Land Warrior or some similar rig – as it went, using some form of wearable networking.

Not only would the soldier then know automatically how many shots he had fired without the need to keep count or look at his magazines and pouches, but so would his team leader – and higher commanders would be warned in advance if their people seemed likely to run out of ammo.

Most current and planned digital-soldier rigs already include GPS, in some cases enhanced by the use of other navigation aids. It seems that with the addition of Black Box, commanders may know not just how many shots their troops fire and when, but where they were as they did so – perhaps in real time. The scheme is somewhat reminiscent of the idea, sometimes suggested for US police, of automatic gun cameras intended to record the target of every shot fired for use in subsequent investigations.

Fans of Judge Dredd will recall that his personal sidearm, the Lawgiver pistol, had capabilities akin to this in some versions – perhaps going as far as the tagging of every round fired with the user’s DNA signature. (Though in the movie, even this level of record-keeping didn’t suffice to protect an innocent Dredd from being busted by his fellow judges for a crime he hadn’t committed.)

FN don’t mention DNA bullet-tagging specifically, but they do say that the Black Box is intended to form just part of their planned “Armatronics™” kit, “a fully integrated system of electronic solutions mounted on or inside a weapon. Additional enhancements for increased functionality to the system are on the horizon as new technologies are explored.”

From theregister.co.uk.

Plane-mounted laser in action

Posted by on October 8th, 2009

This video shows the effect of the high-energy laser beam from the Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), fired at a stationary truck from a US Air Force NC-130H (Hercules) flying over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on August 30, 2009. The ATL is a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), and is a scaled-down version of the megawatt-class high-energy laser in the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL).

Death from above via geekologie.com.

See also:

Power generating backpack

Posted by on October 1st, 2009

Originally designed for the military in mind, this could easily be transferred and sold to the consumer market:

Video via hackaday.com.

LRAD ‘sonic cannon’ debuts in U.S. at G20 protests

Posted by on September 28th, 2009

Via dailyfinance.com:

Pittsburgh police on Thursday used an audio cannon manufactured by American Technology Corporation (ATCO), a San Diego-based company, to disperse protesters outside the G-20 Summit — the first time its LRAD series device has been used on civilians in the U.S.

“The police fired a sound cannon that emitted shrill beeps, causing demonstrators to cover their ears and back up,” The New York Times reported. For years, similar “non-lethal” products designed by ATC have been used at sea by cruise ships to ward off pirates.

“LRAD creates increased stand off and safety zones, supports resolution of uncertain situations, and potentially prevents the use of deadly force,” ATC spokesperson Robert Putnam told DailyFinance. “We believe this is highly preferable to the real instances that happen almost every day around the world where officials use guns and other lethal and non-lethal weapons to disperse protesters.”

Still, Putnam acknowledged the potential for physical harm. “If you stand right next to it for several minutes, you could have hearing damage,” he said. “But it’s your choice.” He added that heavy-duty ear-phones can render the weapon less effective.

Now that the law enforcement authorites have begun using the LRAD in U.S. cities, a whole new marketplace for the company may have opened up. Don’t be surprised to see a LRAD at an event with large crowds in your town sometime in the future.

Not exactly the Inferno sound barrier device, but still effective.

Thanks to Noah J. for the link!

Cyborg Beetles

Posted by on September 25th, 2009

“We demonstrated the remote control of insects in free flight via an implantable radioequipped miniature neural stimulating system,” the researchers reported in their new paper for Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience. ” The pronotum mounted system consisted of neural stimulators, muscular stimulators, a radio transceiver-equipped microcontroller and a microbattery.”

Via geekologie.com.

Steel Velcro

Posted by on September 11th, 2009

Regular velcro helps the slow and undexterous keep their shoes securely on. But steel velcro? Well, that stuff can support up to 35 tons of pressure.

Developed by German engineers, this new version of Velcro is dubbed Metaklett, and it can support 35 tons at temperatures up to 1472 degrees. It’s made from “perforated steel strips 0.2 millimetres thick, one kind bristling with springy steel brushes and the other sporting jagged spikes.”

Link and photo via dvice.com.

Tiny Hummingbot

Posted by on August 16th, 2009

From crunchgear.com, the swarm is coming for you:

The bot is part of ongoing research by DARPA to create a sort of suite of robots for deployment in combat. This one would be for checking out potential hiding spots, bomb locations, or sniper perches. They call it a Nano Air Vehicle. And remember, it’s cute now, but when it’s loaded with a neurotoxin and trying to sneak up behind the barricades…

Need To Fly A Military Drone? Yep, There’s An iPhone App For That

Posted by on August 10th, 2009

MIT Professor Missy Cummings (a former F-18 Hornet Navy Pilot), and her team of 30 students and undergrads, have successfully demonstrated how an iPhone could be used to control an Unmanned Area Vehicle, or UAV.

As part of their work at MIT’s Humans and Automation Lab (HAL, heh), the team thought about ways to improve on the suitcase-sized controller that soldiers must currently lug around to control hand-thrown Raven UAVs.

The iPhone app they developed sends GPS coordinates to the craft, which then in turn can send photos and video back to the iPhone.

Link and video via gizmodo.com.

Robot Submarines

Posted by on August 7th, 2009

Technabob.com, blogging about the “the frighteningly successful Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Autonomus Underwater Vehicles competition (AUVSI AUV)” :

The contest pitted robot submarines developed by competitors from various universities around the world, all of them eager to bring us closer to Armageddon, one torpedo-carrying robot at a time. The competition was judged by Kelly Cooper, program officer at the Office of Naval Research, and she said that this was the first year that a robot submarine was able to finish the obstacle course with time to spare. She seemed so scared of the results that she temporarily forgot what her department was. Here she is and her palpable fear caught on cam, along with a bunch of future Resistance members paradoxically cheering Skynet’s prototypes.

Earth. Check. Sky. Check. Water. Check. We now have no place to run from the robots.

Bring out the Pain Ray!

Posted by on August 3rd, 2009

For crowd control, when a single taser won’t do:

The Shockwave is meant to “de-escalate/defuse violent crowd/riot situations,” although I have a feeling that if you Taser the first wave of a crowd, it might get a lot more rowdy — especially if they see that your Shockwave is a one-shot device, or three at the most (plus you can duck).

Photo and words via crunchgear.com.

Forget the geese control it’s designed to do: if it could be developed beyond the few shots it makes, crowd control would take on a whole new meaning.

US Air Force says decision-making attack drones will be here by 2047

Posted by on July 28th, 2009

Leave it to the military to dream big. In its recently released “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047″ report, the US Air Force details a drone that could fly over a target and then make the decision whether or not to launch an attack, all without human intervention. The Air Force says that increasingly, humans will monitor situations, rather than be deciders or participants, and that “advances in AI will enable systems to make combat decisions and act within legal and policy constraints without necessarily requiring human input.” Programming of the drone will be based on “human intent,” with real actual humans monitoring the execution, while retaining the authority and ability to override the system. It’s all still extremely vague, with literally no details on exactly how this drone will come into existence, but we do know this: the Air Force plans to have these dudes operational by 2047.

Via engadget.com.

Lockheed’s supersoldier exoskelton: HULC

Posted by on March 10th, 2009

From TheRegister:

YouTube Preview Image

four pounds of lithium polymer batteries will run the exoskeleton for an hour walking at 3mph, according to Lockheed. Speed marching at up to 7mph reduces this somewhat; a battery-draining “burst” at 10mph is the maximum speed.

The user can hump 200lb with relative ease while marching in a HULC, however, well in excess of even the heaviest combat loads normally carried by modern infantry. There’d be scope to carry a few spare batteries. Even if the machine runs out of juice, Lockheed claims that its reinforcement and shock absorption still helps with load carrying rather than hindering.

There are various optional extras, too. The HULC can be fitted with armour plating, heating or cooling systems, sensors and “other custom attachments”.

Well, it looks like these are finally getting decent.

thanks for the tip-off Nora Wainwright!