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Drone Swarms

Summary:
Drones are changing warfare. They are cheap and deadly. I am thinking about their use in stopping a marine invasion. The reason is that I am concerned that it is not clear enough to Xi JinPing that an invasion of Taiwan would be a huge error. The problem with anti-ship drones is that they are attacking a target with anti-aircraft defences and one which can survive some explosions. I think this means that a very large number of drones must converge on the ship (or ships defending each other). At least first I will discuss flying drones (although recent news shows the importance of drone boats) A lcurrent limit on mass attacks with drones is the limited number of human controlers and control stations. I think it makes sense to have a

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Drones are changing warfare. They are cheap and deadly. I am thinking about their use in stopping a marine invasion. The reason is that I am concerned that it is not clear enough to Xi JinPing that an invasion of Taiwan would be a huge error.

The problem with anti-ship drones is that they are attacking a target with anti-aircraft defences and one which can survive some explosions. I think this means that a very large number of drones must converge on the ship (or ships defending each other).

At least first I will discuss flying drones (although recent news shows the importance of drone boats) A lcurrent limit on mass attacks with drones is the limited number of human controlers and control stations. I think it makes sense to have a small number of human controlled drones guiding a large number of unmanned vehicles. I think this is an easy problem to solve.

I think it is not hard for unmanned vehicles to determine the distance to other unmanned vehicles — they just have to send out signals with identifying codes and distance is determined from the strength of the signal. This means that with 4 manned drones, an automated unmanned craft can fly at the same distance from each, or one half as far from drone 1.0 than from 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0.

The human controlled drones do not have to be on the outiside of the swarm. Two drones, also distance to 1.0 half of 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 but not close to to each other would be one between the controlled drones and one basically in front of drone 1.0.

I have described relative distances (half as far) because the plan is for the human controlled drones to converge on a target and the automated unmanned vehicles to converge with them.

I call the first drone 1.0, because I think it is easy to keep going if it is shot down. Human control could switch to another drone 1.1. The calculations would have to be updated (so other automated unmanned flying vehicles keep steady on their course) given the known position of 1.1 relative to 1.0. Today, that is a trivial calculation which can be performed by extremely cheap onboard processors which require a tiny current to operate.

I think a swarm of thousands of drones each of which can easily be shot down would saturate any air defense.

Drone Boats.

Click the link above to read a report on one that did serious damage to a merchant ship which was abandoned (no casualties). Here I think submarine drones are interesting. Propellors are a key vulnerability of ships . They are vulnerable, and when operating, very very noisy. This means it is possible for marine drones to be targetting towards propellors (the drone might have to turn off it’s propulsoin to listen).

This would require very limited human control — basically giving the order to destroy any propellor operating in some area with no own or neutral ships.

Robert Waldmann
Robert J. Waldmann is a Professor of Economics at Univeristy of Rome “Tor Vergata” and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Robert runs his personal blog and is an active contributor to Angrybear.

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