Of Fort Benning, Ga. Tech, and ‘look-ma, no-hands’ warfare

Important, Skynet-like doings have been happening down in Columbus. From the Washington Post:

One afternoon last fall at Fort Benning, Ga., two model-size planes took off, climbed to 800 and 1,000 feet, and began criss-crossing the military base in search of an orange, green and blue tarp.

The automated, unpiloted planes worked on their own, with no human guidance, no hand on any control.

After 20 minutes, one of the aircraft, carrying a computer that processed images from an onboard camera, zeroed in on the tarp and contacted the second plane, which flew nearby and used its own sensors to examine the colorful object. Then one of the aircraft signaled to an unmanned car on the ground so it could take a final, close-up look.

Target confirmed.

This successful exercise in autonomous robotics could presage the future of the American way of war: a day when drones hunt, identify and kill the enemy based on calculations made by software, not decisions made by humans. Imagine aerial “Terminators,” minus beefcake and time travel.

The Fort Benning tarp “is a rather simple target, but think of it as a surrogate,” said Charles E. Pippin, a scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, which developed the software to run the demonstration. “You can imagine real-time scenarios where you have 10 of these things up in the air and something is happening on the ground and you don’t have time for a human to say, ‘I need you to do these tasks.’ It needs to happen faster than that.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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22 comments Add your comment


September 20th, 2011
3:46 pm

If I had a son in the Army, I’d think this was a wonderful thing. Would’t you?


September 20th, 2011
3:46 pm

Killing’s our business and business is good.

Junior Samples

September 20th, 2011
3:50 pm

What could possibly go wrong?

Retired Solider

September 20th, 2011
3:52 pm


Winning and or achieving a desired outcome is the business of the military which often includes killing. Just trying to put the correct perspective on your comment.


September 20th, 2011
4:32 pm

Wait! I’ve seen this movie!


September 20th, 2011
4:49 pm

Ever get lost trying to get to a wedding out in the sticks? Looks like that won’t be a problem for these bad boys.


September 20th, 2011
5:21 pm

Live by swords.


September 20th, 2011
6:05 pm

People make enough mistakes–accidental kills–in war w/o compounding the problem by killing w/software programed by people who can make mistakes w/i hardware made by people who can make mistakes. Such weapons, like any computer program, can be hacked and turned on the builder/operators. BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. War should be rare; those engaging in it should be accountable for their decisions; inevitably, automation would be used as an excuse to duck responsiblility. Better use for our resourses is to work to prevent war..


September 20th, 2011
7:03 pm

Hmmm… Terminator no longer Sci Fi…

Blue Fox

September 20th, 2011
7:09 pm

Cases of “unintended collateral damage,” i.e., dead civilians, will skyrocket with this technology.


September 20th, 2011
8:56 pm

Hope its GPS is better than the one in my car

OLD Guardsman

September 20th, 2011
9:52 pm

Blue Fox – in reality it has had just the opposite effect.

The Snark

September 20th, 2011
10:53 pm

OLD Guardsman:

Really? And how exactly do you know that a brand new experimental technology “has just the opposite effect in reality”?


September 20th, 2011
11:52 pm

Where’s the GUTS, huh? What happened to going down to the gym, getting in the ring and having a fair fight, man on man? Techno-proxy killing is just…. not manly.


September 21st, 2011
5:22 am

I am for robots, computers,drones, or anything else that cuts down or eliminates patrols against cowards who hide IED’s or strap bombs on women and children. Whatever it takes to save GI’s lives I am for 100%. The only thing that counts in war is surviving and winning.


September 21st, 2011
6:09 am

Wonder how these drones can distinguish between one house in a cul de sac and another one. After all these “neat” little Man Toys aren’t going to be blowing the crap out of tarps, are they? And we wonder why the rest of the world hates us so much. To this day, our government won’t tell us how many tens of thousands Iraqis were killed in a bogus war on a country that did nothing to us. Sad…

Smart bombs? Get real

September 21st, 2011
6:57 am

All this technology does is provide more cover to personnel and politicians who don’t want to take responsibility for unintended deaths.

We’ve had ten years of war in Afghanistan, a pathetically poor country with almost no defenses. We use our drones to try to kill the bad guys there, but we frequently kill innocent women and children (sad but far too true).

There really should be a better way.


September 21st, 2011
7:42 am

Patton is spinning in his grave

red light redistrict

September 21st, 2011
8:23 am

One has to look at friendly fire problems. If the enemy figures out how to jam these weapons and turn them against our troops, then we’ll have Hannibal revisited and then the Chinese will just keep coming and coming and coming……

Hannibal, on his death bed was heard mumbling something about if only he coulda had just a few more elephants, oh what he coulda done. (It were elephants what ruined his invasions and battle plans time after time after time. You see, the Romans figured out how to jam them with loud noises).

How ironic that Hannibal kept forgetting what happens during battles when the elephants stampede pell mell.

Double Zero Eight

September 21st, 2011
8:30 am

@ findog

So is McArthur.

Let’s hope the billions that we invest in this
technology give us our “bang for the buck”.

Big Hat

September 21st, 2011
8:50 am

Pain, suffering and death are good for you; 9 out of 10 GOP scientists agree.

Ole Guy

September 21st, 2011
4:25 pm

Technology is a wonderful tool, but that’s all it is…or should be…a tool. Just as in the application of technology’s magic in everyday life, this particular military application…either by design or by chance…removes the necessity of the 100%/heads-up human intervention. It relieves the “human component” from having to think; the technology, after all, does that for the human.

As an Ole Soldier, I view this over-reliance on technology as a detriment to morale and, ultimately, to mission accomplishment. As a tool, technology will always have a place in the military arsenal/the “tool bag of tricks”, if you will. However, I fear that…as with commercial applications…technology is too close to over-riding the human input. While I truly believe in any-and-all opportunities in removing young men from harm’s way, this over-reliance just may have the completely opposite effect. When a few clouds, and the presence of moisture impact, for example, on the accuracy of guidance systems, “splashing” (aborting) the mission only means another manned sortie (incursion into the combat zone). Similarly, if the strike proceeds, missing the target and causing civilian casualty is a very probable outcome.

If we are to rely on technology, let’s first refine it’s application and not rely on a 50/50 chance of success. Too much is at stake.