Nov 19, 2020
11. Future Warfare and Swarm Drones | David Hambling
The future of warfare is heading towards a battle between software engineers rather than soldiers and pilots. World superpowers are pursuing an arms race to develop super swarm drones, which some have identified as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In this podcast technical consultant, journalist, and author David Hambling talks about the state of the art of military drones and distributed approaches in warfare.
The video podcast is available here: https://youtu.be/HHKvzVvt0nc
David’s book “SWARM TROOPERS, How small drones will conquer the world” is available here https://www.swarm-troopers.com/.
Some extracts from the podcast:
David Hambling (DH). At the moment the drones are beginning to have quite significant impact on warfare. At the moment, the chief users are the US Air Force and the CIA who've been using them for what are called counterinsurgency operations. [...] That's well short of an actual hot war. But we've also seen very recently in Nagorno Karabakh, where there've been drones making a significant impact on the battlefield on a full scale war. And that's kind of likely to happen more in the future. Now, the big drones, like the Reapers that the US Air Force us go for $20-30 million apiece, whereas small drones, like the consumer drones made by DJI, the sort that you can buy over the internet, those are only a few hundred dollars. [...]
DH. [with mosaic warfare and distributed approaches] The idea is that you can have your warfighting capability. […]. So that's the ability to see what's happening, cameras and radar and other sensors, and your communications and then your weapon systems. Rather than having it all in one big box, like, say, a single aircraft flying overhead, you can have lots of different devices at different levels. [...] Like a mosaic, you can build it up to match whatever the particular mission requirement is.
DH. If you're a soldier, one of the things you always want to know is what's happening on the other side of the hill, because the last thing you want to do is actually stick your head up and go over and get shot out, while trying to look. Whereas drones give you the perfect way of seeing everything that's going on around you. [...]
DH. Yes, I mean, that's [nuclear batteries] ultimately that's one of the best ways of powering aircraft. You've to remember, back at the time they were also looking at nuclear powered bombers, and various other things. Given that the military already have nuclear powered submarines and nuclear powered aircraft carriers. It didn't seem quite so outlandish. The nuclear powered drone would be a slightly different prospect though, because there's a much greater chance of it crashing and problems. However, there is actually a company that's working on a similar concept at the moment, who believe that by using betavoltaics, which is a sort of power system driven by radioactive decay, they can get enough power to have a compact power system to drive a drone.
DH. A swarm is simply a large number of relatively simple units that are able to carry out complicated coordinated actions just by following a few rules. Swarming technology is a lot of it draws from nature. So this is from the way that flocks of birds fly or that shoals of fish swim, so they can all move together without crashing into each other. And the whole thing can change directions smoothly and seamlessly. So it's that sort of approach. The advantage of a swarm is that you can have 100 or 1000, or even more small drones, all carrying out a task and they don't require hundreds or thousands of operators, you just need one operator to say go over there and the entire swarm can then have a commands. [...]