Air Force finds dumb ways to use smart drones



I like drones. What makes the United Nations frown makes me smile. Shooting Al Qaeda terrorists from 3,000 miles away is the best video game ever.

But the military is coming up with uses for drones that make no sense.

And the WaPo, in a very press release-y sounding article, does no critical analysis:

“I have been in the classified, black world for my whole career, so all of this is new for me and I really wish I could go back,” said the director, William Roper, a physicist who previously worked in missile defense.

SCO was “essentially built around one smart guy” — Roper — who impressed Carter several years ago, the defense secretary said last week while in San Francisco. Carter, then the deputy defense secretary, challenged Roper to tackle problems confronting the Pentagon and he “found solution after solution after solution,” the secretary recalled.

“All of our service chiefs, our Joint Chiefs of Staff, love the guy because he’s providing real solutions,” Carter said.

He's a genius! So whatever he says goes. Wait, what is he saying?

One new project not previously reported is called Avatar, and calls for the Pentagon to pair high-tech “fifth-generation” fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with unmanned versions of older jets like the F-16 Fighting Falcon or F/A-18 Hornet, which would be flown without a pilot for the first time.

So F-16's would be turned into drones. Why would we need to do that? We have pilots for F-16's. Admittedly, it costs money to train pilots, but by far the most expensive component is not the pilot, but the F-16. If you're going to create drones, it makes sense to create drones from scratch that don't have spaces for pilots so the drone can carry more weapons and/or have a longer range. Converting regular fighters into drones doesn't give any additional capability.

High over Alaska last summer, the Pentagon experimented with new, secret prototypes: Micro-drones that can be launched from the flare dispensers of moving F-16s and F/A-18 fighter jets. Canisters containing the tiny aircraft descended from the jets on parachutes before breaking open, allowing wings on each drone to swing out and catch the wind. Inch-wide propellers on the back provided propulsion as they found one another and created a swarm.

Drone swarms! Amazing! Incredible! Roper is a genius!

Wait. What are these minidrones being used for?
The article does not say.

Just think, if a plane drops a bunch of mini drones, each with a camera, how is that different from one, big drone, also with a camera?
It's the same thing. Having a lot of drones is only useful if they are spread out over a wide area. Having a lot of tiny drones in one area makes no sense.

And these drones are so small that they can't carry weapons.

So while drone swarms sound cool, they make no sense. The WaPo writer penning this press release of an article didn't think to question the usefulness of these inventions.

I love drones. I love what they do to Al Qaeda and ISIS. But these genius inventions are dumb. Is it too much to ask for a little more analysis from WaPo articles? Probably.



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