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Swarms and Boids

I’m currently working my way through the audiobook of Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. A great many topics are discussed, including “swarms” – autonomous flying robots that follow three simple rules:

  1. Separation: steer to avoid crowding local flockmates
  2. Alignment: steer towards the average heading of local flockmates
  3. Cohesion: steer to move toward the average position of local flockmates

More info on one such project can be found here.

As an offensive exercise, think of the METTTC requirements (for both sides) for an “airfield denial” mission utilizing a swarm, launched by FreeFor.

As a defensive exercise, think of the METT-TC requirements (for both sides) for a “cache hunter” mission launched by the OpFor.

See also: boids (not Boyd, but you should read him too) and these DIYers.

Are you tracking? Because autonomous bots will be.

But fear not. Autonomous bots are still a ways away, though closer than some people think. The semi-private sector leads the way in developing these technologies. They’re the ones not funded by the .gov, who open-source their findings and developments – the hobbyists. And like ArcPat says, what man creates, man can defeat. One of the weaknesses of the OpFor’s birds is the communications path – from eyeball to satellite to receiver to control station, each link is expensive and vulnerable.

The gumball beneath a Predator’s fuselage? It costs one quarter of the Predator’s multi-megabuck price tag. Shoot that while it’s on the ground, and it will become a giant fan with wings.

The receiver dish that sends and received commands? Take an antenna class and you’ll learn just how vulnerable those things are to electromagnetic interference, and how much their shape influences their transceiving capabilities. Then you’ll realize how vulnerable they are to ballistic interference.

Expand your horizons.

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  1. 31 January 2012 at 21:23

    The Range Equation still gets you. For an air vehicle, drag is proportional to the square of the characteristic dimension, while volume is proportional to the cube. As size goes up, this works in your favor. As you increase size, payload goes up faster than drag. Fuel is part of payload, which means range goes up faster than drag. When you shrink the size of the vehicle, things work against you. Payload shrinks faster than drag, which means range shrinks faster, too. A very small vehicle is going to be range-limited.

    One consequence is that for an autonomous air vehicle, the smaller it is, the closer it must be to the target before launch. A bee-sized vehicle, intended to enter an open window of a building, would probably have to be launched from the parking lot of that building. For the defender, this makes things easier.

  1. 31 January 2012 at 00:40

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