General, your tank is a powerful vehicle.
It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver.
The science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote numerous books and short stories about robots, and developed the "Three Laws of Robotics" -- laws that are the opposite of what the US military is designing for our future.
Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics
Science-fiction author Isaac Asimov is often given credit for being the first person to use the term robotics in a short story composed in the 1940s. In the story, Asimov suggested three principles to guide the behavior of robots and smart machines. Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, as they are called, have survived to the present:
1. Robots must never harm human beings or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. Robots must follow instructions from humans without violating rule 1.
3. Robots must protect themselves without violating the other rules.
Israel unveils portable hunter-killer robot
Thu Mar 8, 2007 5:31am ET
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli defense firm on Thursday unveiled a portable robot billed as being capable of entering most combat zones alone and engaging enemies with an onboard armory that includes a machine-pistol and grenades.
The VIPeR, roughly the size of a small television, was invented as part of Israel's efforts to develop weaponry that could reduce the risks to its forces from hand-to-hand fighting against Palestinian or Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
The manufacturer, Elbit Systems Ltd., said that the VIPeR's small size and dual treads enable it to move "undeterred by stairs, rubble, dark alleys, caves or narrow tunnels".
As well as bomb-sniffing and bomb disposal equipment, the VIPeR can carry an Uzi machine-pistol or plant a grenade. The weapons would be aimed using an onboard video camera.
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According to Elbit, which has close links with the Defense Ministry, Israel plans to deploy the VIPeR among its infantry units after field tests. The robot could also be of interest to foreign police units or U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.
America's robot army
Published 12 June 2006
Already there are killing machines operating by remote control. Soon the machines will be able to kill on their own initiative. A new warfare is on its way
War is about to change, in terrifying ways. America’s next wars,
the ones the Pentagon is now planning, will be nothing like the conflicts
that have gone before them.
In just a few years, US forces will be able to deal out death, not at the squeeze of a trigger or even the push of a button, but with no human intervention whatsoever. Many fighting soldiers - those GIs in tin hats who are dying two a day in Iraq - will be replaced by machines backed up by surveillance technology so penetrating and pervasive that it is referred to as “military omniscience”. Any Americans involved will be less likely to carry rifles than PlayStation-style consoles and monitors that display simulated streetscapes of the kind familiar to players of Grand Theft Auto - and they may be miles from where the killing takes place.
This is no geeky fantasy. Much of the hardware and software already exists and the race to produce the rest is on such a scale that US officials are calling it the “new Manhattan Project”. Hundreds of research projects are under way at American universities and defence companies, backed by billions of dollars, and Donald Rumsfeld’s department of defence is determined to deliver as soon as possible. The momentum is coming not only from the relentless humiliation of US forces at the hands of some determined insurgents on the streets of Baghdad, but also from a realisation in Washington that this is the shape of things to come. Future wars, they believe, will be fought in the dirty, mazy streets of big cities in the “global south”, and if the US is to prevail it needs radically new strategies and equipment.
Tether drew this moral: “We need a network, or web, of sensors to better map a city and the activities in it, including inside buildings, to sort adversaries and their equipment from civilians and their equipment, including in crowds, and to spot snipers, suicide bombers or IEDs [improvised explosive devices] . . . This is not just a matter of more and better sensors, but, just as important, the systems needed to make actionable intelligence out of all the data.”
Darpa has a host of projects working to meet those needs, often in surprising ways. One, called Combat Zones That See, aims to scatter across cities thousands of tiny CCTV cameras, each equipped with wireless communication software that will make it possible to link their data and track the movements of every vehicle on the streets. The cameras themselves will not be that different from those found in modern mobile phones.
Darpa’s VisiBuilding programme, meanwhile, is making “X-ray eye” sensors that can see through concrete, locating people and weapons inside buildings. And Human ID at a Distance is working on software that can identify individual people from scans of their faces, their manner of walking or even their smell, and then track them anywhere they go.
Closely related to this drive are projects involving compu-ter simulations of urban landscapes and entire cities, which will provide backdrops essential for using the data gathered by cameras and sensors. The biggest is Urban Resolve, a simulated war against a full-scale insurgency in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in the year 2015.
Gordon Johnson, a team leader on Project Alpha, which is developing robots for the US army, predicts that, if the robot’s gun can return fire automatically and instantly to within a metre of a location from which its sensors have detected a gunshot, it will always kill the person who has fired. “Anyone who would shoot at our forces would die,” says Johnson. “Before he can drop that weapon and run, he’s probably already dead. Well now, these cowards in Baghdad would have to pay with blood and guts every time they shoot at one of our folks. The costs of poker went up significantly. The enemy, are they going to give up blood and guts to kill machines? I’m guessing not.”
January 27, 2005
Battle bot: the future of war?
Sharpshooting robots evoke 'Terminator.' The more pertinent question is how these automated soldiers will transform military conflict.
By Gregory M. Lamb | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
They've spied on the enemy, sniffed for deadly chemical and radioactive
emissions, and sacrificed themselves to detonate terrorist bombs. Now
robots are ready to strap on guns and fight the battles too.
This spring, the United States armed forces are expected to deploy 18 Talon robots to Iraq. The semi-autonomous machines will be capable of firing rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and rockets with better accuracy than human soldiers. They're the latest step in a surge of battlefield "bots" that are increasingly shouldering the military's most dangerous jobs.
One great race - no drivers
In Afghanistan, a new robosoldier goes to war
"Terminator" they're not. Only a human soldier using radio
controls from a distance has the ability to "squeeze the trigger."
But if battle bots ever do take on the bulk of frontline fighting, the
results could transform military strategy.
"It's going to change the fundamental equation of war," says John Pike, a security policy analyst who runs the respected website globalsecurity.org. The evolution of war is at its midpoint, Mr. Pike says. "First you had human beings without machines. Then you had human beings with machines. And finally you have machines without human beings."
While robots firing weapons on their own may be a decade or more away, even today's remote-controlled versions have changed the rules, he adds. By turning war into "a video game," the machines make it much easier for soldiers to kill without remorse by putting the human operator at "one remove" from the act of killing.
Fighting robots would be "on the short list" of seminal events in all of military history, he says, right alongside the development of iron weapons, gunpowder, and the atomic bomb.
In the air, an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft developed by the US, the Predator, first flew over the Bosnia conflict in 1995. More recently, Predators have fired Hellfire missiles against ground targets in Iraq.
On the ground, the military has used bomb-disposal bots for years. In Afghanistan and Iraq, these machines have carved out a distinguished service record.
Among them: PackBots, a small tracked vehicle made by IRobot Corp. in Burlington, Mass. They "were carried in backpacks into the hills of Afghanistan to explore the caves where Al Qaeda were holed up and the Taliban had weapons caches," says Colin Angle, cofounder and CEO of IRobot.
Equipped with an arm to grip or carry objects, the machine may probe the carcass of a cow or goat, a favorite place for insurgents to plant explosives. Two small flippers on the front enable it to go up stairs. It's waterproof, capable of driving across shallow rivers, and rugged. One PackBot exploring a cave in Afghanistan fell 25 feet, righted itself, and reestablished communication with its handlers outside the cave, Mr. Angle says.
PackBots are now being used every day to detect roadside bombs in Iraq. "We occasionally get postcards saying, 'Thank you, you saved a life today,' " Angle says. "We've gotten two robots back in boxes just shredded and blown up. Robots come back with holes in them from shrapnel."
The Talons, due this spring, aren't the first armed robots in Iraq. South Korea reportedly has deployed two robot snipers with rifles with its forces in Arbil. Their computer-guided guns are said to hit their targets with lethal accuracy nearly 100 percent of the time.
No single technological breakthrough is driving the rise in battlefield bots. It's simply that their high-tech components continue to become smaller, faster, and cheaper. The robots are built with so many "off the shelf" parts available to consumers that they're sometimes called "PC bots." Proven civilian technologies like global positioning systems (GPS) are reducing the need to develop expensive proprietary systems.
"There's a lot of money going into all aspects of robotics in their application for military use," says Dan Kara, editorial director of Robotics Trends Inc., in Northborough, Mass. Military personnel are attending consumer-oriented robotics conferences just to hunt for fresh ideas or technologies, he says.
The US is looking at robots to accomplish three goals: reduce casualties, save money, and perform more effectively than a human could, he adds.
A robot that costs more than $200,000 each, such as a Talon, might seem expensive. But in the grisly mathematics of war, so is months of training for a highly skilled soldier who must be replaced if he or she is killed or severely wounded in battle. If a robot is destroyed, no letter of condolence must be written to a grieving parent or spouse, and no list of human casualties grows longer.
Robots also could substantially reduce the number of soldiers needed, Pike points out. Automated trucks, for example, would reduce the need for truck drivers, which would lead to fewer cooks making meals for the drivers, fewer guards protecting the cooks, and so on.
Besides the Talons, which have been converted from bomb-disposal bots, other American robots are being developed for the battlefield. R-Gator, built by IRobot, will use off-the-shelf robotics to perform dangerous missions autonomously. The robot, based on the John Deere M-Gator military vehicle now in Iraq, will serve as an unmanned scout or "point man," guard a perimeter, do reconnaissance, or haul supplies up to 1,400 pounds guided by GPS. Operated manually or by remote control, R-Gator can be directed to follow soldiers or a set route. The first R-Gators are scheduled to roll off the assembly line by mid-2005. Full production is planned to begin in 2006.
A little farther down the pipeline are Robotic Extraction Vehicles, basically armored ambulances that could rumble to the front lines unmanned and return with wounded soldiers.
"I think you're going to see a lot of sentry robots," Mr. Kara says, that will perform tasks that are dangerous, boring, or repetitive. One human at a console could monitor several sentry robots patrolling a military installation, for example.
While today's robots can take some actions on their own, such as following prescribed routes, they still rely on human handlers. To act as independent fighters they'll need to move autonomously. That means they must havesophisticated vision systems that not only see what is around them but also interpret what they see. Like human soldiers, robots will need to know where they are and how to detect and avoid obstacles.
To advance research in the field, the US military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will hold its second "grand challenge" this year, offering a $2 million prize to any robotic vehicle that can maneuver across 175 miles of desert terrain with no human aid. All the robots entered in last year's grand challenge failed miserably.
If such technological challenges are met, robot armies could someday become so powerful that the idea of war itself could become unthinkable. Pike wonders if the US might have sent an army of battle bots into Rwanda, Sudan, or Liberia to quell genocidal wars if it knew that few of its human troops would risk harm.
Or would war become easier? If other countries develop their own military robots, Pike muses, "what would it look like if millions of Chinese robots came crawling out of the Pacific Ocean and started storming across California?"
Maybe a lot like a "Star Wars" movie?
Pentagon prepares to build £70bn robot army
By Francis Harris in Washington
The Pentagon is spending £70 billion on a programme to build heavily-armed
robots for the battlefield in the hope that future wars will be fought
without the loss of its soldiers' lives.
The scheme, known as Future Combat Systems, is the largest military contract in American history and will help to drive the defence budget up by almost 20 per cent to just over £265 billion in five years' time.
Much of the cash will be spent computerising the military, but the ultimate aim is to take members of the armed forces out of harm's way. They would be replaced by robots capable of hunting and killing America's enemies.
Gordon Johnson, of the US joint forces research centre, told the New York Times: "The American military will have these kinds of robots. It's not a question of 'if', it's a question of 'when'."
The American military is already planning units of about 2,000 men and 150 robots, among them land-based "infantry" devices and drone aircraft.
In the far future it is hoped that the miniaturised robots will walk like humans, or hover like some birds. Others may look like insects.
Scientists say that, working at full tilt, the process is likely to take at least 20 years.
Robert Finkelstein, the head of one development firm called Robotic Technologies, said the Pentagon has established the goal "but the path is not totally clear".
In the meantime, the military is developing simpler technologies.
The US military has already bought a tracked robot which can enter highly risky sites such as cave complexes favoured by al-Qa'eda.
The machines have been deployed in Afghanistan's caves, digging up roadside bombs in Iraq and guarding weapons storage sites.
The Swords robots come in several versions, carrying either a machine gun, grenade launcher or a light anti-tank weapon.
It is controlled by a soldier from a distance of up to 1,000 yards.
"We were sitting there firing single rounds and smacking bull's-eyes," said Staff Sergeant Santiago Tordillos, who helped to design and test the robot. "We were completely amazed.''
That human involvement has proved critical in convincing military lawyers that machines can be used on the battlefield. More advanced machines which can decide whether to kill would also be legal, said Mr Johnson.
"The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions," he said.
The programme is already causing other nations to reassess their military priorities. Britain's Armed Forces in particular will need to follow the American lead if only because the two militaries fight together so often.
While the cost of the scheme is huge, it may ultimately save large sums of money. Professional soldiers, their dependants and pensions are pricey. Once robotic technology is developed, the Americans say, the cost of a robot soldier might be only 10 per cent that of its human counterpart.
A US navy research centre in San Diego has already produced a robot built to look like a human. At 4ft high, it has a gun on its right arm and a single eye and could shoot at a target.
One researcher, Jeff Grossman, said the intelligence of the machines was increasing. "Now, maybe, we're a mammal. We're trying to get to the level of a primate."
When researchers succeed, a number of troubling moral dilemmas will have to be addressed. Some in the American computer business are asking whether it is acceptable to have machines decide for themselves whether to take human life and what will happen when, inevitably, the robot makes a mistake.
Bill Joy, who helped to found Sun Microsystems, said 21st century machines could become "so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses".
A New Model Army Soldier Rolls Closer to the Battlefield
By TIM WEINER
The New York Times
Published: February 16, 2005
The American military is working on a new generation of soldiers, far different from the army it has.
"They don't get hungry," said Gordon Johnson of the Joint Forces Command at the Pentagon. "They're not afraid. They don't forget their orders. They don't care if the guy next to them has just been shot. Will they do a better job than humans? Yes."
The robot soldier is coming.
The Pentagon predicts that robots will be a major fighting force in the American military in less than a decade, hunting and killing enemies in combat. Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.
The military plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in automated armed forces. The costs of that transformation will help drive the Defense Department's budget up almost 20 percent, from a requested $419.3 billion for next year to $502.3 billion in 2010, excluding the costs of war. The annual costs of buying new weapons is scheduled to rise 52 percent, from $78 billion to $118.6 billion.
Military planners say robot soldiers will think, see and react increasingly like humans. In the beginning, they will be remote-controlled, looking and acting like lethal toy trucks. As the technology develops, they may take many shapes. And as their intelligence grows, so will their autonomy.
The robot soldier has been a dream at the Pentagon for 30 years. And some involved in the work say it may take at least 30 more years to realize in full. Well before then, they say, the military will have to answer tough questions if it intends to trust robots with the responsibility of distinguishing friend from foe, combatant from bystander.
Even the strongest advocates of automatons say war will always be a human endeavor, with death and disaster. And supporters like Robert Finkelstein, president of Robotic Technology in Potomac, Md., are telling the Pentagon it could take until 2035 to develop a robot that looks, thinks and fights like a soldier. The Pentagon's "goal is there," he said, "but the path is not totally clear."
Robots in battle, as envisioned by their builders, may look and move like humans or hummingbirds, tractors or tanks, cockroaches or crickets. With the development of nanotechnology - the science of very small structures - they may become swarms of "smart dust." The Pentagon intends for robots to haul munitions, gather intelligence, search buildings or blow them up.
All these are in the works, but not yet in battle. Already, however, several hundred robots are digging up roadside bombs in Iraq, scouring caves in Afghanistan and serving as armed sentries at weapons depots.
By April, an armed version of the bomb-disposal robot will be in Baghdad, capable of firing 1,000 rounds a minute. Though controlled by a soldier with a laptop, the robot will be the first thinking machine of its kind to take up a front-line infantry position, ready to kill enemies.
"The real world is not Hollywood," said Rodney A. Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at M.I.T. and a co-founder of the iRobot Corporation. "Right now we have the first few robots that are actually useful to the military."
Despite the obstacles, Congress ordered in 2000 that a third of the ground vehicles and a third of deep-strike aircraft in the military must become robotic within a decade. If that mandate is to be met, the United States will spend many billions of dollars on military robots by 2010.
As the first lethal robots head for Iraq, the role of the robot soldier as a killing machine has barely been debated. The history of warfare suggests that every new technological leap - the longbow, the tank, the atomic bomb - outraces the strategy and doctrine to control it.
"The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions," said Mr. Johnson, who leads robotics efforts at the Joint Forces Command research center in Suffolk, Va. "I have been asked what happens if the robot destroys a school bus rather than a tank parked nearby. We will not entrust a robot with that decision until we are confident they can make it."
Trusting robots with potentially lethal decision-making may require a leap of faith in technology not everyone is ready to make. Bill Joy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has worried aloud that 21st-century robotics and nanotechnology may become "so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses."
"As machines become more intelligent, people will let
machines make more of their decisions for them," Mr. Joy wrote recently
in Wired magazine. "Eventually a stage may be reached at which the
decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that
human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage,
the machines will be in effective control."
Pentagon officials and military contractors say the ultimate ideal of unmanned warfare is combat without casualties. Failing that, their goal is to give as many difficult, dull or dangerous missions as possible to the robots, conserving American minds and protecting American bodies in battle.
"Anyone who's a decision maker doesn't want American lives at risk," Mr. Brooks said. "It's the same question as, Should soldiers be given body armor? It's a moral issue. And cost comes in."
Money, in fact, may matter more than morals. The Pentagon today owes its soldiers $653 billion in future retirement benefits that it cannot presently pay. Robots, unlike old soldiers, do not fade away. The median lifetime cost of a soldier is about $4 million today and growing, according to a Pentagon study. Robot soldiers could cost a tenth of that or less.
"It's more than just a dream now," Mr. Johnson said. "Today we have an infantry soldier" as the prototype of a military robot, he added. "We give him a set of instructions: if you find the enemy, this is what you do. We give the infantry soldier enough information to recognize the enemy when he's fired upon. He is autonomous, but he has to operate under certain controls. It's supervised autonomy. By 2015, we think we can do many infantry missions.
"The American military will have these kinds of robots. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."
Meanwhile, the demand for armed bomb-disposal robots is growing daily among soldiers in Iraq. "This is the first time they've said, 'I want a robot,' because they're going to get killed without it," said Bart Everett, technical director for robotics at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego.
Mr. Everett and his colleagues are inventing military robots for future battles. The hardest thing of all, robot designers say, is to build a soldier that looks and acts human, like the "I, Robot" model imagined by Isaac Asimov and featured in the recent movie of the same name. Still, Mr. Everett's personal goal is to create "an android-like robot that can go out with a solider to do a lot of human-like tasks that soldiers are doing now."
A prototype, about four feet high, with a Cyclops eye and a gun for a right arm, stood in a workshop at the center recently. It readied, aimed and fired at a Pepsi can, performing the basic tasks of hunting and killing. "It's the first robot that I know of that can find targets and shoot them," Mr. Everett said.
His colleague, Jeff Grossman, spoke of the evolving intelligence of robot soldiers. "Now, maybe, we're a mammal," he says. "We're trying to get to the level of a primate, where we are making sensible decisions."
The hunter-killer at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center is one of five broad categories of military robots under development. Another scouts buildings, tunnels and caves. A third hauls tons of weapons and gear and performs searches and reconnaissance. A fourth is a drone in flight; last April, an unmanned aircraft made military history by hitting a ground target with a small smart bomb in a test from 35,000 feet. A fifth, originally designed as a security guard, will soon be able to launch drones to conduct surveillance, psychological warfare and other missions.
For all five, the ability to perceive is paramount. "We've seen pretty dramatic progress in the area of robot perception," said Charles M. Shoemaker, chief of the Army Research Laboratory's robotics program office at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. That progress may soon allow the Army to eliminate the driver of many military vehicles in favor of a robot.
"There's been almost a universal clamor for the automation of the driving task," he said. "We have developed the ability for the robot to see the world, to see a road map of the surrounding environment," and to drive from point to point without human intervention. Within 10 years, he said, convoys of robots should be able to wend their way through deep woods or dense cities.
But the results of a road test for robot vehicles last March were vexing: 15 prototypes took off across the Mojave Desert in a 142-mile race, competing for a $1 million prize in a Pentagon-sponsored contest to see if they could navigate the rough terrain. Four hours later, every vehicle had crashed or had failed.
All this raises questions about how realistic the Army's timetable is for the Future Combat Systems, currently in the first stages of development. These elaborate networks of weapons, robots, drone aircraft and computers are still evolving in fits and starts; a typical unit is intended to include, say, 2,245 soldiers and 151 military robots.
The technology still runs ahead of robot rules of engagement. "There is a lag between technology and doctrine," said Mr. Finkelstein of Robotic Technology, who has been in the military robotics field for 28 years. "If you could invade other countries bloodlessly, would this lead to a greater temptation to invade?"
Colin M. Angle, 37, is the chief executive and another co-founder of iRobot, a private company he helped start in his living room 14 years ago. Last year, it had sales of more than $70 million, with Roomba, a robot vacuum cleaner, one of its leading products. He says the calculus of money, morals and military logic will result in battalions of robots in combat. "The cost of the soldier in the field is so high, both in cash and in a political sense," Mr. Angle said, that "robots will be doing wildly dangerous tasks" in battle in the very near future.
Decades ago, Isaac Asimov posited three rules for robots: Do not hurt humans; obey humans unless that violates Rule 1; defend yourself unless that violates Rules 1 and 2.
Mr. Angle was asked whether the Asimov rules still apply in the dawning age of robot soldiers. "We are a long ways," he said, "from creating a robot that knows what that means."
"The giant Caterpillar bulldozer, used by the
Israeli military to destroy Palestinian homes in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, now comes with a controversial new feature: remote control."
Israel to Raze Palestinian Homes with Robot Bulldozers
Gavin Rabinowitz | Associated Press | November 3, 2003
Israel Plans 'Remote-Control' Border
Border To Include Unmanned Patrol Cars, Computerized Posts
POSTED: 10:13 am EDT June 18, 2004
JERUSALEM -- The Israeli army envisions a "remote control" border with the Gaza Strip after a troop withdrawal, including unmanned patrol cars and computerized observation posts that would automatically spot and kill attackers, a military official said Friday.
An Israeli army think tank has been working on a new border design for
months, the military officials said. The planners envision a "remote
control" border that will cut down on the number of troops being
deployed in the area. High-tech equipment for border control is already
being tested, they added.
A computerized observation system will allow the army to identify "hostile elements" and fire deep into Gaza, Yediot said. The system will even choose the most appropriate weapon to use to hit a specific target.
In addition, the army is testing unmanned patrol cars that can identify and defuse explosives by remote control. Planners have prepared alternatives in case the technology is not useable in time, military officials said.
REMOTE-CONTROL MACHINE GUNS TO BE MOUNTED ON THE WALL
According to Haaretz reporter Amira Hass, a Sept. 21  article on the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronoth's Web site, Ynet, states that "the separation fence to be built in the Gilboa region will include remote-control machine guns that will be operated by female soldiers from their command posts and will shoot at those suspected of being terrorists." According to Ynet's reporter, the system is be installed in the coming months in the mountainous Gilboa region, along the path of the "Separation Wall." The army's purpose in installing the system is to compensate for the small amount of troops and the difficulties of moving in the area--"and to shoot at terrorists who try to cross the fence." In a concession to humanitarian considerations, rather than making the guns fire automatically at anything that moves they will be fired "by the female soldier who manages the lookout post and has been trained for this."
Hass adds: "The report did not say how she would be trained to tell whether the figure who appears on her video screen is a terrorist or an innocent man." (Ha'aretz, Sept. 24) There is no explanation why the soldiers used will be female, but perhaps the Israeli army considers it a combat role that would be safe enough for a woman soldier. (Ha'aretz, Sept. 24) (David Bloom) [top]
7. REMOTE-CONTROL HELICOPTER STOLEN
Industrial espionage is believed to be the explanation for the theft of a state-of-the-art remote-control pilotless helicoter under developoment by an Israeli company. The unit was stolen from Steadicopter's Kefar Maccabi plant, after it had finished it's final test flights. The BBC notes that Israel has "long been a world leader in developing pilotless reconnaissance aircraft and its Pioneer drone is currently in service with US forces in Iraq." (BBC, Nov. 12) (David Bloom) [top]
8. NEXT: REMOTE-CONTROL BULLDOZERS
The fearsome armor-plated D-9 Israeli army bulldozer, used to demolish Palestinian buildings and orchards as well as international activists, is being modified to be operated by remote control, a move the army insists will "save lives." An unnamed Israeli officer was quoted by the Israel Technion Institute of Technology, which designed the remote-control version, as saying, "today the bulldozer drivers are exposed to great danger when they knock down buildings that have militants hiding in them." Palestinian spokesmen Saeb Erakat denounced the move. "The whole idea is despicable," said Erekat. "If an unmanned bulldozer is used, human life is in much greater danger." As of the Oct. 31 press time of this BBC report, the robot dozer was to go "into service in the next few weeks. " (BBC, Oct. 31)
Remote Control Trucks
Tanker Truck Shutdown Via Satellite
San Diego - Nov 04
Satellite Security Systems (S3), a global provider of asset security and logistics control, in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and InterState Oil Company, dramatically demonstrated the first wireless remote shutdown of a fully loaded moving petrochemical tanker truck.
From S3's headquarters in San Diego -- 530 miles from the demonstration site -- satellite communications were used to disable the truck in seconds, proving S3's GlobalGuard and FleetGuard a viable solution to the challenge of controlling rogue hazardous waste vehicles that could pose a threat to homeland security.
The event, conducted on CHP Academy grounds in Sacramento and administered by the CHP, addresses ongoing concerns about the affordability of effective security technology, stealthiness of such a security device, and how GPS monitoring can be incorporated safely into law enforcement protocol.
The need to secure trucks carrying hazardous-waste or petrochemical products is of paramount concern to trucking companies, California Independent Oil Marketing Association (CIOMA) members, and State and Federal departments.
While the California state government may be voting as early as January on Assembly Bill (AB) 575 (requiring truck disabling devices, global positioning or other "location reporting systems" on hazardous material haulers), the CHP has been tasked with researching various technologies to support these regulatory initiatives.
InterState Oil Stays Ahead of Legislation
InterState Oil Company is one enterprise focused on day-to-day homeland security needs. A full service, multi-line wholesale distributor of petroleum and related products, the company recently deployed S3's GlobalGuard and FleetGuard to its entire fleet of trucks.
FleetGuard is a desktop application that works with GlobalGuard to view, command, and control each vehicle in an entire fleet at once. GlobalGuard is a security communications system, based on ReFLEX technology and Global Positioning System (GPS), providing up-to-the-minute vehicle location and control of fixed and mobile assets.
"InterState Oil has already gained significant operational efficiencies since implementing FleetGuard," said Brent W. Andrews, vice president of InterState Oil Company and board member of the California Independent Oil Marketers Association (CIOMA).
"We researched a variety of technologies and S3 was the only one with an affordable, scalable, and commercially viable solution that improves everyday efficiency and provides the level of security that will soon be required for all HazMat transportation operations."
"Companies like Interstate Oil that are proactive in installing these enterprise-wide oversight systems are making a contribution to the security of the nation and realizing operational efficiencies in the process," said John Phillips, president and chief operating officer of Satellite Security Systems.
Police call for remote button to stop cars
Motorists face new 'Big Brother' technology
Juliette Jowit, transport editor
Sunday December 21, 2003
After speed cameras, road humps and mobile phone bans, there could be more bad news for Britain's motorists. Police are urging Ministers to give them the power to stop vehicles by remote control.
In what will be seen as yet another example of the in-creasing power of Big Brother, drivers face the prospect of their cars being halted by somebody pushing a button.
The police lobby is being led by Superintendent Jim Hammond of Sussex police, who chairs an Association of Chief Police Officers technology working group which is examining the idea.
'Providing an effective means to remotely stop a vehicle is fast becoming a priority,' Hammond told a European conference. 'The development of a safe and controlled system to enable remote stopping has the potential to directly save lives.'
However, Bert Morris, deputy director of the AA Motoring Trust said: 'People don't like the idea of Big Brother taking over their driving. In years to come that might be acceptable, but it's very, very important that there's a step-by-step approach.'
Cars could be stopped by the gradual reduction of engine power so it slowly comes to a stop, or by making sure when drivers come to a halt they can not move again.
Stopping cars remotely sounds futuristic, but the basic technology is already available and used in lorries to limit the top speed to 56mph and in new systems to immobilise stolen cars.
The key is the electronics box in most new cars which, when the driver presses the accelerator or brake, sends a message to the engine to speed up or slow down. It can be programmed to limit the speed generally or according to the position of the car, established via a GPS satellite. For remote operation, a modem, which works like a mobile phone, can be used tell the car to slow down or stop.
Similar radio telemetry was used by Formula One pit crews to adjust the engines of racing cars at up to 200mph - until it was banned this year.
'The technology exists and will become more refined as time goes on,' said Nick Rendell, managing director of the Siemens business developing this technology in the UK.
A senior police officer - assumed to be the chief constable or deputy - can already give the order to stop a car remotely, but that power has rarely if ever been used, said Morris. To use any new powers more widely, police must first overcome some practical problems to reassure Ministers that vehicles would be stopped safety. Ministers will also want reassurances that drivers would not be mistakenly stopped.
ACPO insists that it would only introduce the technology when it was safe. It is calling on the Government to introduce the legislation which it says will be vital to stop vehicles when - as expected - manufacturers develop tyres that run when they are flat. This will make 'stingers' - the spiked strips thrown in front of speeding cars - useless to stop stolen and get-away cars or dangerous drivers.
It is also linked to pressure to make cars 'pointless to steal' because of growing concern about more violent car crime as vehicles become harder to take. The RAC Foundation recently found there were as many as 1,200 car jackings in Britain last year.
Another link is to technology which would stop cars going above certain speed limits - either a fixed maximum such as 70mph, or varying according to the local limit.
The system could even be programmed to reduce speeds below the limit in bad weather or when school children were expected to be about, said Robert Gifford, director of the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety, which believes the technology could cut the 3,420 deaths a year on Britain's roads by 59 per cent.
Experts now believe the technology could start to be used voluntarily by the end of the decade and ultimately could be made mandatory.