Military May Enlist Commercially Available Drones
” Tiny drones could scout high-rise buildings and underground tunnels for possible threats to US troops in cities of the future. But instead of spending years cooking up the necessary drone technologies in military research labs, the Pentagon might be better off shopping for the latest civilian drones coming soon to stores.
US military leaders have discussed the need for a new generation of scout drones for some time. After all, kicking down doors is a dirty and dangerous business for US troops trying to clear enemy-held buildings. It would be far safer to deploy diminutive drone buddies to provide an initial peek inside, and identify any potential threats.
While the military already deploys several types of drone, their biggest limitation in urban environments is that they can’t negotiate building interiors, says Paul Scharre, project director for the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security. Large, aircraft-size Predator and Reaper military drones circling overhead cannot spot enemy insurgents or snipers hidden inside buildings or underground tunnel networks. Smaller military drones, such as Ravens and Pumas, are meant to fly outdoors, rather than navigate indoor corridors. Fortunately, a class of drone does exist that flies comfortably down hallways and around rooms. You can find them on the shelf at Target.
Commercial drones still aren’t quite ready for military action, according to Major Jeffrey Persons, head of the Aviation Combat Element Branch at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. For starters, they’ll need not to be so reliant on their human operators. That means advanced collision-avoidance, and the “ability to navigate in tight quarters without the aid of GPS,” Persons says. They would also need automatic target recognition software to identify indoor threats for US troops waiting outside.”