Slaughterbots -- Meh
The Market Ticker - Commentary on The Capital Markets
2017-11-22 07:00 by Karl Denninger
in Technology , 221 references Ignore this thread
Slaughterbots -- Meh
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The stupid, it burns!

A UC Berkeley computer science professor helped to create a video that imagined a world where nuclear weapons were replaced by swarms of autonomous tiny drones that could kill half a city and are virtually unstoppable.

Stuart Russell, the professor, said these drones are already a reality.

Meh.

This so-called "professor" needs to be taken out into San Francisco Bay where there are sharks and tossed overboard for this horse**** stunt.

Let me explain.

Yes, it is trivial, even today, to create a small drone that can "pierce" someone's skull.  You can quite-trivially recognize a "head" and aim at it, along with striking it.  You don't even need a lot of forward speed since the attack can come from above, using gravity, and with a small enough "snout" the amount of kinetic energy required is pretty small too.

That's not the problem.

The problem is energy management and density.

Today's "hobby" (and small commercial) drones are energy density limited.  The unit has to lift its power source, which is a battery.  Batteries are terrible in this regard because they carry their reactants, including the oxidizer, in the case.

This means the common drone is limited to a few minutes of fly time before its battery is exhausted.

So to use such a "swarm" you'd have to release the drones close to where they will hit, and they will get one target per, provided they can find and execute on one before their power runs out.  The smaller the drone the less power it carries because it's ability to lift said cell is smaller.  If it's designed like a plane rather than a hovercraft it can go further but it's still severely limited on runtime.

If you start putting explosives inside it then you have the same problem in that you have to lift that too.  This, by the way, is why small hobby-style drones don't bother the various authorities all that much when it comes to terrorists using them for bombs -- they simply can't carry enough explosive to be all that interesting.

That doesn't mean it won't suck to be you if you're targeted by something like this.  It will.  But the idea of a "killer, cheap swarm" that spreads out over a city and murders people by the score is science fiction horse**** because only in that universe does the power supply exist to allow the dwell time and travel range to actually make it practical.

Now in a "battlefield" type environment, if you can get close enough, it's another matter.  There a bunch of tiny drones that can only lift a fraction of a pound each might be very effective across small areas.  Release a bunch (e.g. from high altitude overhead from a "drop plane"), they target anything bipedal, ram what appears to be the "head" and explode.  Even very small charges would have devastating impact, could be contact-fused (easy and as cheap to make as a rifle primer) and would be extremely hard to defend against (over than by being behind hard cover on all sides!)

But in a city or other urban type environment against civilians, and the outrageously idiotic claim that $25 million can buy an "army" of these things today that can kill half a city?

Meh.

I can come up with a half-dozen cheap countermeasures against such a swarm.  Perfect, no, they wouldn't be but you don't have to be -- you just have to make using them uneconomic.

I ain't skeered; bring it on.

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