Grab This

 

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — UAVs, if you want to sound cool — are in heavy use in Afghanistan, and not without controversy. Mostly, though, they’re about flying around and dropping stuff.

Now, thanks to some researchers at Yale, they can pick things up, too.

This video is awfully cool — if you ever fooled around with model rocketry or radio-controlled stuff as a kid, you’ll love it. And if you’re a gadget freak, you’ll really love it. I’m both, and I went to Yale, so the whole package has me atingle.

But I also like what this says about warfare, and warfare research: that we’re trying to come up with ways for machines to do things that would otherwise cost human lives; that we’re developing ways to get to places that are hard to get to; that we’re widening the gap between our superior technology and our enemy’s; and that our enemies can’t hide much longer.

The Global War on Terror can’t be won on the battlefield alone. It’s going to have to be won in engineering labs, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03FDr2jFJd4

There are 17 comments.

  1. Profile Photo Member

    Yale?

    Rob, we love you, so we will forgive that youthful indiscretion.

    An older-and-wiser Rob would, no doubt, have chosen Hillsdale.

    • #1
    • September 1, 2010, at 4:48 AM PDT
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  2. River Inactive

    It’s way cool technologically, and fun to watch. But God help us in the future if/when Big Brother is running things from the Black Ops House.

    • #2
    • September 1, 2010, at 5:07 AM PDT
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  3. Michael Tee Inactive

    Many wars are won in engineering labs.

    The gladius, siege engines, gunpowder, artillery, airplanes, nuclear weaponry, etc. all turned the tide in one war or another throughout history.

    • #3
    • September 1, 2010, at 5:12 AM PDT
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  4. James Poulos Contributor
    River: It’s way cool technologically, and fun to watch. But God help us in the future if/when Big Brother is running things from the Black Ops House. · Sep 1 at 5:07am

    I have to say, there’s something about drones that makes me queasy. Maybe it’s the whole robots-with-guns thing. We’re a long ways away from the day when machines programmed to kill fight wars so human Americans don’t have to, but I think the following principle is important to keep in at least the back of our minds going forward: war is something awful, serious, and dangerous enough that real people should have to do the bulk of it. Assassinating evildoers in remote locations is one thing; getting in the habit of outsourcing death and destruction to the bots is another.

    • #4
    • September 1, 2010, at 5:22 AM PDT
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  5. Humza Ahmad Member

    Granted this is a going to be a big step forward in how we fight our new enemies, what really strikes me about this video is how military research and development not only leads to better weapons and warfare systems, but to better technology overall. Imagine the possible applications of such grasping technology outside of the battlefield: for one, Coast Guard evac helicopters no longer need to risk the life of an EMT in a hurricane to string up and rescue a drowning person, since the soft polymer clasp in the video can pick him out safely and gently.

    Part of our technological lead over the rest of the world over the last six decades has been steady and high-levels of funding in academia and industry of technologies that have application on the battlefield, which have inevitably led to innovations that have helped to fuel our economy.

    • #5
    • September 1, 2010, at 7:15 AM PDT
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  6. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long Post author
    James Poulos, Ed. …war is something awful, serious, and dangerous enough that real people should have to do the bulk of it.

    Well, for one thing, this is a bot that grabs stuff. It’s a rescue bot, so in this particular instance, it’s not a killer drone. But I don’t agree that war is so awful that “real people should have to do the bulk of it.” I mean, it sounds nice, but it doesn’t really mean much, does it? Are you arguing against nuclear arms? Are you arguing for maintaining a certain ratio of technology warfare to human warfare? Why is it better that “real” people die? Usually, the argument goes like this: as long as war is terrible and awful and requires huge manpower, people will think twice before waging it. But that is easily disproved. As technology has improved, as we’ve invented new gizmos and drones, the globe has actually become more peaceful. (Compared to, say, 1750.) Except in places like Rwanda, where they didn’t have any technology at all. They managed to make do with machetes. Personally, I’d have preferred it if they had used bots.

    • #6
    • September 1, 2010, at 9:00 AM PDT
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  7. Adam Freedman Contributor
    Rob Long: The Global War on Terror can’t be won on the battlefield alone. It’s going to have to be won in engineering labs, too. ·

    And on the playing fields of Eton, too.

    • #7
    • September 1, 2010, at 9:04 AM PDT
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  8. Aaron Miller Member

    There’s something counterintuitive about an Ivy League school developing military technology.

    Drone technology will become more various as it advances. We’ll have full-size jets and helicopters that perform aerial surveillance and drop bombs. We’ll have remote-control submarines. And we’ll have cheap, toy-size robots.

    The last concerns me most. Domestically, one could kill or spy on someone without any way of the action being traced. One could bomb a market or gas a building from afar. And it would be a lot easier to infiltrate any area undetected.

    Also, because of the relatively low cost of the toy-size drones, those will see considerable experimentation and advancement in self-direction. A full-blown virtual intelligence is only necessary if the robot will be left on its own for a long time or placed in an extremely dynamic environment. We are already capable of programming a robot to crawl through a vent and eliminate a target on its own (in limited circumstances).

    • #8
    • September 1, 2010, at 9:08 AM PDT
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  9. Ottoman Umpire Inactive

    The video would have been a lot more compelling if the robot was picking up, say, a kicking, screaming effigy of Osama bin Laden, and dropping him into the fiery maw of a volcano. Where’s the Yale drama department when you need it?

    • #9
    • September 1, 2010, at 9:56 AM PDT
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  10. Profile Photo Member

    This is great news. Lets keep the H1-B visa program going so we can import the talent to staff the labs to create the drones…Lets just hope the Chinese and Indians will provide low cost loans… The war on terror and the security of the US rests on our economy,,,, everything else follows..

    • #10
    • September 1, 2010, at 10:28 AM PDT
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  11. Profile Photo Member

    I dunno, Rob…it just looks like the Navy is spending tax dollars on a gizmo designed to go grab a brewski.

    • #11
    • September 1, 2010, at 10:33 AM PDT
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  12. Rob Long Founder
    Rob Long Post author

    I guess what I worry about most is when and if Ricochet.com becomes self-aware. Oh well, I shouldn’t worry about it. Our technical staff at Cyberdyne has it under control, I’m sure, and we can always shut Skynet down whenever we want.

    Right?

    • #12
    • September 2, 2010, at 2:52 AM PDT
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  13. Humza Ahmad Member
    Aaron Miller: Drone technology will become more various as it advances. We’ll have full-size jets and helicopters that perform aerial surveillance and drop bombs. We’ll have remote-control submarines. And we’ll have cheap, toy-size robotsSep 1 at 9:08am

    Mr. Miller, I think you have chosen the entirely incorrect toy-sized robots. These are the real Taliban killers of the future.

    • #13
    • September 2, 2010, at 4:45 AM PDT
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  14. Profile Photo Member
    Rob Long: I guess what I worry about most is when and if Ricochet.com becomes self-aware. Oh well, I shouldn’t worry about it. Our technical staff at Cyberdyne has it under control, I’m sure, and we can always shut Skynet down whenever we want.

    Right? · Sep 1 at 2:52pm

    Everything’s under control. And if it does spin out of control, I’ll fix it in 700 years during which I’ll have achieved some degree of humanity. ;-]

    • #14
    • September 2, 2010, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  15. Duane Oyen Member
    Rob Long: I guess what I worry about most is when and if Ricochet.com becomes self-aware. Oh well, I shouldn’t worry about it. Our technical staff at Cyberdyne has it under control, I’m sure, and we can always shut Skynet down whenever we want.

    Right? · Sep 1 at 2:52pm

    Rob, log on to Netflix, order 1970’s Colossus, The Forbin Project. Your future at Ricochet. It is not clear that even BSA can overcome. (it’s hard to be the really old man here who actually remembers stuff from before the ’90’s….)

    • #15
    • September 2, 2010, at 9:16 AM PDT
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  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Humza Ahmad
    Aaron Miller: Drone technology will become more various as it advances. We’ll have full-size jets and helicopters that perform aerial surveillance and drop bombs. We’ll have remote-control submarines. And we’ll have cheap, toy-size robotsSep 1 at 9:08am
    Mr. Miller, I think you have chosen the entirely incorrect toy-sized robots. These are the real Taliban killers of the future. · Sep 1 at 4:45pm

    The only thing worse than a miniature Erector Set warrior is one that talks back. I will disassemble.

    • #16
    • September 2, 2010, at 9:35 AM PDT
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  17. Duane Oyen Member
    James Poulos, Ed.
    River: It’s way cool technologically, and fun to watch. But God help us in the future if/when Big Brother is running things from the Black Ops House. · Sep 1 at 5:07am
    I have to say, there’s something about drones that makes me queasy. Maybe it’s the whole robots-with-guns thing………. Assassinating evildoers in remote locations is one thing; getting in the habit of outsourcing death and destruction to the bots is another. · Sep 1 at 5:22am

    1) The issue is not drones, but UAV’s. Drones are under constant human control, UAVs stand alone and make decisions.

    2) The pick-up mechanism looks like the automated production “pick and place” mechanisms in use for about 30 years. Presumably they now use smarter software to enable more independent decisions.

    3) What, pray tell, is the moral difference between the armed Predator and a fire-and-forget missile? In each case, a human has programmed it to activate a kill mechanism against a programmed target. So, we need to put our soldiers out there at risk to be fair and moral?

    Should we be more moral and get rid of armor?

    • #17
    • September 2, 2010, at 12:02 PM PDT
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