Monday, March 29, 2010

DARPA - More futuristic unmanned vehicles on the way!

True, some of DARPA's unmanned vehicles may be on the way, but at what cost, what feasibility, and what purpose?  As an outsider, at least to this outsider, the fatal flaw is glaring:  what will unmanned vehicles do when faced with true opposition?  An opposition that is just as angered and just as determined as we would be if our country invaded.  An even more disturbing question is whether or not the $multiple-billion robots will be of assistance to the troops in the field, even when ready. 

Tremendous sums of money are being spent on this and other technologies (you know the ones, robot insects, cloaking uniforms that make the user unseen to the enemy, etc.).  Eight years in Afghanistan and seven in Iraq.  What has JEIDDO to show for it?

I'm writing Johanna Jones ( with my yearly request to participate in the unmanned vehicle program - as an opponent.  My purpose is to determine if the robot vehicles can stand up to one person armed with:

  1. A Model 1903 Springfield rifle fitted with a 6X scope and 26 rounds of ammunition (of my choosing) for a 25 vehicle field.
  2. $200.00 cash, from DARPA for purchasing legal and non-explosive materials at hardware stores or the Internet.
  3. $250.00 my own money for purchase of more items listed in point #2.
  4. The DARPA team is allowed Thermal, Middle and Near Infrared scanning equipment to find my location.
  5. DARPA will allow me only 24 hrs. to prepare.
The research programs from original idea to field operations is drastically different in insurgencies, as illustrated in the triangles below.  Simple, true, but to the point - yes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Small Wars Journal Posts Low-Tech Methodology

In 1543 the great surgeon Vesalius published De Fabrica, illustrating the muscle and tendon structure with great accuracy.  When it was published he commented, "Not long ago, I would not have dared to diverge a hair's breadth from Galen's opinions."  When he finally did diverge, he commented "I still distrust myself."

Why?  Galen, the great Roman physician had been dead for 1500 years.  He was not allowed to work on human corpses, so he extrapolated from animal surgery.  Vesalius was right, of course, and he knew it.  He was also a practical man interested only in the physical world and how it was arranged. If he contradicted Galen he knew he would have to retract his work then face prison or execution.

And that's part of the problem.  Publishing low-tech methodology is a sure ticket for making yourself a bullseye with the high-tech crowd.  And for the most part, they are right:  more educated, more time with defense contractors, degrees in physics or engineering.  Furthermore, why bother testing something that has been disproved before?  Have a good belly-laugh then get back to the real tasks, like robots, electronic insects or drones.

But this is where the dreaded empiricism steps in.  Like all science, it demands an author publish methodology for others to duplicate - and maybe find out you're wrong.  But then again, the skeptics may be wrong too.  Here's the link for the interested: