Thursday, January 07, 2010

project anubis

Wired | The Air Force Research Laboratory set out in 2008 to build the ultimate assassination robot: a tiny, armed drone for U.S. special forces to employ in terminating “high-value targets.” The military won’t say exactly what happened to this Project Anubis, named after a jackal-headed god of the dead in Egyptian mythology. But military budget documents note that Air Force engineers were successful in “develop[ing] a Micro-Air Vehicle (MAV) with innovative seeker/tracking sensor algorithms that can engage maneuvering high-value targets.”

We have seen in recent years increased strikes by larger Predator and Reaper drones using Hellfire missiles against terrorist-leadership targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But these have three significant drawbacks.

First, you can never be quite sure of what you hit. In 2002’s notorious “Tall Man incident,” CIA operatives unleashed a Hellfire at an individual near Zhawar Kili in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. His unusual height convinced the drone controllers that the man was Bin Laden (who stands 6 feet, 5 inches). In fact, he was merely an innocent (if overgrown) Afghan peasant.

A second problem is that the Hellfire isn’t exactly the right weapon for the mission. Originally designed as an anti-tank missile, it’s not especially agile, nor is it designed to cope with a target that might swerve or dodge at the last second (like cars and motorbikes).

And thirdly, such strikes tend to affect a number of others, as well as the intended target. It raises the risk of killing or injuring innocent bystanders.

This was the rationale for Project Anubis. Special Forces already make extensive use of the Wasp drone made by AeroVironment. This is the smallest drone in service, weighing less than a pound. It has an endurance of around 45 minutes, and line-of-sight control extends to 3 miles.

It might seem limited compared to larger craft, but the Wasp excels at close-in reconnaissance. Its quiet electric motor means it can get near to targets without their ever being aware of its presence.
Fist tap Nana.