"Flying Robot Attack 'Unstoppable': Experts"

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The headline was just too delicious to resist, in the first place. But this story–about the terroristic possibilities of remote-controlled light aircraft–really does make one wonder about the multitude of dreadful and more-or-less unstoppable things that Our Hidden Enemies Everywhere could be doing to us daily, and yet never seem to do. As the story points out, "Security services the world over have been considering the problem for several years, but no one has yet come up with a solution." Nor, it seems, has anyone yet come up with a problem.

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  1. Much more likely, and scarier, and less preferable: millions of camera-equipped flying robot police-drones, making sure we’re all obeying the anti-sodomy laws, reporting our income, and not smoking indoors.

  2. We’ve just got to stop aggressing against each other.

  3. “Nor, it seems, has anyone yet come up with a problem.”

    Well, as George W. Bush said:

    “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

    See? It wasn’t a misstatement afterall.

  4. Ah, but is it unreasonable to ask what secret designs the terrorist secret designers have secretly designed, in their terroist designs shrouded in secrecy?

  5. The government simply needs to add to all building codes a requirement that all buildings include a rooftop Phalanx CIWS. They will be the lightning rods of the 21st century.

  6. These things can carry a 100lb payload!!!!! Oh my god! That might actually knock the statue off the dome of the capitol!
    Can we please fund a multi-billion program to ward off this terrible threat!

  7. They don’t need to be remote controlled to wreak havoc: I once saw a guy throw one of those big toy styrofoam gliders in the air, only to have it do a big loop-di-loop and bonk him in the nuts.

    Why do they hate freedom?

  8. It’s easy to make fun of a title like that, sure, but the point of the article was to show that a robot could take the place of a suicide bomber by remote control, and it would be hard to see it coming, especially in the night.

    The 100 pound payload is NOT a joke–a 100 pound nail bomb hovering over a crowd of people would do much more damage than one on the ground. And a 100 pounds is quite a bit more explosives than your average suicide bomber is able to carry.

    Certainly if I were a mad bomber I would be eager to use a robot instead of my own body to do the dirty work, but I’m a westerner. Our enemies never seem to run short of people willing to give up their lives unnecessarily. It’s probably this unending supply of willing suicide bombers that has prevented this tactic from entering widespread use.

    I’ve never understood why someone wouldn’t just spray a crowd with a couple of clips from an uzi, rather than bomb them. At least that way you get a chance to run away and try it again another day.

  9. Paul

    This article was in reference to our national security, so yeah, a 100lb payload is a joke.
    And like you said, why would they go to trouble of rigging up a remote control plane when it far easier for them to use thier endless supply of crazies to blow themselves up in crowds.

  10. Err, just because someone hasn’t used this technology yet to kill people, there isn’t a threat? That makes no sense Brian

  11. I think box-cutters have made us paranoid.

  12. Related:
    http://www.fema.gov/pdf/plan/prevent/rms/428/fema428_ch4.pdf

    From Page 4-7

    For design purposes, large scale truck bombs typically contain 10,000 pounds or more of TNT equivalent, depending on the size and capacity of the vehicle used to deliver the weapon. Vehicle bombs that utilize vans down to small sedans typically contain 4,000 to 500 pounds of TNT equivalent, respectively. A briefcase bomb is approximately 50 pounds, and a pipe bomb is generally in the range of 5 pounds of TNT equivalent. Research performed as part of the threat assessment process should identify bomb sizes used in the locality or region. Security consultants have valuable information
    that may be used to evaluate the range of likely charge weights.

  13. 100 lbs of Semtex will do a heck of a lot of damage – according to this, three pounds will raze a two-story building.

    I’m guessing that 100 lbs would probably finish off most Federal courthouses, and would likely weaken even a larger building to the point of complete failure.

  14. I’m sure that ideally 100 lb. of a powerful explosive ideally placed could destroy a big building. I’m not convinced a robot plane would be a particularly effective way of doing so. It doesn’t seem to be a style of attack favored by terrorists.

  15. I wish my libertarianism was the brand that is sooo cool and know it all and above everything that I can make such intelligent arguments as “we shouldn’t worry about any terrorist threat that hasn’t actually been used against us yet”. I wonder what you’d say if such an attack happened tomorrow and it was shown that the government had not even considered it.

  16. I heard from a reliable source that the robots will take over on August 29.

  17. Back during the demonstrations for and against Connecticut’s civil union legislation, I had discussed (semi-seriously) with colleagues the possibility of using one of those remote control blimp kits to create a giant flying penis, complete with a whipped cream payload, which would hover over to the “anti” podium and, um, unload.

    (I actually have one of those blimp kits, but never got around to getting the helium… or retrofitting the whipped cream or giant condom.)

    No, I have no idea why I thought it necessary to share this.

    JMJ

  18. Mmm… Flying robots.

    Wasn’t that Gundam Seed?

    Then, there was Big O, if someone can make sense out of its final episode…

    Those people have been watching anime waaaaaay too much.

  19. I was kind of amused by this:

    “And thanks to satellite positioning systems, they can now be programmed to hit targets some distance away with just a few metres (yards) short of pinpoint accuracy.”

    I think when error is measured in yards, that can’t really be called “pinpoint accuracy.” Maybe “Washington Monument accuracy” is a more appropriate term. Also, when did it suddenly become proper to begin a sentence with “and” in a professional article.

    In regards to Big O, he was a tomato. It’s been a while since I saw it, maybe he wasn’t a tomato, but that one lady was definately a robot. I know there were robots and some of them were big, but she was small. The guy with the afro was cool, people forgot things, the russian lady might have once had wings, and bald people with barcodes (I think they were tomatoes too), that’s pretty much everything I remember, hope that helps. I’m now confused.

  20. I, for one, welome our new radio controlled overlords.

  21. Ah, but is it unreasonable to ask what secret designs the terrorist secret designers have secretly designed, in their terroist designs shrouded in secrecy?

    How is that antrax investigation coming along then?

  22. “How is that antrax investigation coming along then?”

    I don’t think the gov’t wants to know, Dave, who did that. Might put a rather harsh light on the Christian Al Qaeda we have right here in America. That irony may be too much for the Right. 😉

    JMJ

  23. I think box-cutters have made us paranoid.

    Survey says:

    34 Lack of domestic air defense
    33 9/11 Comish report was a joke
    13 Lack of reinforced cockpit doors on planes
    10 Saudi Arabian money
    5 Turbulence and missiles over Long Island
    5 Boxcutters

    we have a winner here on the Feud.

  24. “Also, when did it suddenly become proper to begin a sentence with “and” in a professional article.”

    It was never improper, except in the minds of certain grade-school English teachers. Just one among many examples that could be given: Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (1989) states, “Everybody agrees that it’s all right to begin a sentence with and[.]”

  25. “I think when error is measured in yards, that can’t really be called “pinpoint accuracy.”

    Agreed, but a lot of the things terrorists might want to hit are where differential GPS could be used, which would probably be a lot more accurate, and 100 lbs of semtex would do some serious damage. Still, the fact that a technology exists doesn’t make it cheap, practical, or easy to use – a point frequently missed when somebody with a journo degree tries to report on technical matters.

  26. “Everybody agrees that it’s all right to begin a sentence with and[.]”

    What about beginning a sentence with “but.”

  27. “What about beginning a sentence with ‘but.'”

    Also fine. From Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage: “Part of the folklore of usage is the belief that there is something wrong in beginning a sentence with but[.]”

  28. Sounds like a legitimate concern to me. The capability of robots in general is growing quite rapidly (look at how quickly the Grand Challenge is progressing), so what may be a minimal threat today could be a real one tomorrow.

    Consumer robots will likely remain at or near the same level of sophistication as military versions (for the most part), which would mean that off-the-shelf robotic technology could be a problem. Still, I think the real threat from robots (flying or otherwise) will come from nation-states, not terrorists. And I don’t think it’ll be flying bombs that we have to worry about.

    Naturally, this is all a prelude to robots taking over and placing man under their absolute dominion. Fair enough.

  29. I wonder what you’d say if such an attack happened tomorrow and it was shown that the government had not even considered it.

    urm…I’m pretty sure the government has considered all sorts of horrid things it hasn’t gotten around to doing yet.

    But does every theoretical bit of nasty anyone has ever remotely considered need to be countered with a huge government program? Back in the sixties, somebody came up with an idea for an indestructible space robot with neutronium skin, that chops up whole planets with force beams and consumes them for power. Think of the fun the Pentagon could have had planning countermeasures for that baby. But Kirk & Scotty just flew a conveniently extra starship down its throat, beaming out at the last possible microsecond, and saved the day.

    Ah, the glories of individual action…

  30. It’s kind of an obvious irony, but I think it’s pretty funny (in a depressing and scary way, not really ha ha funny) that many of our major security threats are things that we ourselves have invented, optimized, and sold to the world’s bad actors and despots and counterrevolutionaries and now have to think of a way to stop. Maybe that should be a part of all military requisitioning/planning–anyone who wants to invent and sell the next great weapon for the DOD has to have the antiserum to that great weapon for when it inevitably falls into the wrong hands.

  31. All this hooplah about robots. It’s the robot-monkey hybrids we need to worry about:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A17434-2003Oct12?language=printer

    They’re so going to win. Can you even imagine the poo they’ll be able to fling with those things?

  32. Do I have a Second Amendment right to possess a killer flying robot? If so, I think I’m seeing a way to bring power back to the people 🙂

  33. How many Roombas have been reprogrammed and are now working for the enemy? Does your Roomba seem to vacuum around your private records more often than strictly necessary? Have you caught it plugged into your computer? Do the children complain about the Roomba interrogating them in the middle of the night? Beware, America, the dirt-sucking menace.

  34. John M. Joy – Aw, you totally should have done it. I think we need more monkey-wrenching like that. And clearly, you would have been UNSTOPPABLE.

  35. Gorram it, I should have thought of a Roomba joke…

  36. JD, thanks for sharing your low brow sense of humor with us.

    What should we fear next folks?

    JMJ

  37. What should we fear next folks?

    Well, I’ve always found something vaguely threatening about hummingbirds. Who knows what they’re really up to? And those sharp, pointy beaks; what if they fell into the wrong hands? We need a new government bureau to regulate those things.

  38. Terrorists could go to large shopping malls and pour sugar into everybodies gas tank.

  39. Maybe that should be a part of all military requisitioning/planning–anyone who wants to invent and sell the next great weapon for the DOD has to have the antiserum to that great weapon for when it inevitably falls into the wrong hands.

    Yeah, but that would defeat the purpose of having a military-industrial complex. In order to keep pissing away billions of our dollars to corrupt scientists and ex-military crooks, we have to sell our weapons to the bad guys, so there will be demand for even more weapons later on.

  40. “Terrorists could go to large shopping malls and pour sugar into everybodies gas tank.”

    AND after that, they could go inside and tear the tags off all the pillows. Wouldn’t chaos reign, then?

  41. Well, if they’re going to hit us with flying killer robots, we’re just going to have to call on Sky Captain to bail us out.

  42. There is a woman working for the city to protect us from the robots. Her name is Yoshimi.

  43. Why, thank you, Jersey. What can I say – I like to think that in an era in which the concept of morality has been arrogated by the puritanical, it is not merely an option but an imperative to use the bluenoses’ fastidiousness as a weapon against them to make a larger point about the acceptance of human sexuality and the nature of “spheres of morality”, if you will – but really I just spend my time sitting around drinking Bud Lite and thinking up fart jokes.

  44. On the other hand it would not be a problem for a government like Iran to come up with a system to remotely fly an aircraft. Pre stage agents in the US, steal a plane, load it with a 500 pound bomb, and fly it into the super bowl at half time. Deny any involvement, and let the US try and figure out who did it.

  45. She’s got to be strong to fight them, so she’s taking lots of vitamins.

  46. Dave,

    Dave,

    I wish my libertarianism was the brand that is sooo cool and know it all and above everything that I can make such intelligent arguments as “we shouldn’t worry about any terrorist threat that hasn’t actually been used against us yet”. I wonder what you’d say if such an attack happened tomorrow and it was shown that the government had not even considered it.

    Do you always miss the point, or is this an isolated incident?

  47. damned server squirrel robots anyway.

  48. J.R.

    I think when error is measured in yards, that can’t really be called “pinpoint accuracy.” Maybe “Washington Monument accuracy” is a more appropriate term.

    And maybe you have no clue what aerial bombing “accuracy” was in the days before guided bombs. We’d waste tons of bombs trying to take out one little teeny bridge, and never hit it.

    “Yards” is pretty close to “pinpoint” when you’re at 20k ft and trying to hit even something as big as the Washington monument.

    The next time you’re flying somewhere, take a look out the window once you hit cruising altitude, and imagine trying to hit a barn down there when all you’ve got is manual bomb release. [use the FORCE Luke] It’ll give you a whole new perspective on the idea of “pinpoint accuracy”.

    100 lbs of modern explosives, landed within a few yards of the intended barn, will most certainly flatten it.

  49. archie

    I think it’s pretty funny (in a depressing and scary way, not really ha ha funny) that many of our major security threats are things that we ourselves have invented, optimized, and sold to the world’s bad actors and despots and counterrevolutionaries and now have to think of a way to stop.

    Do you also find it pretty funny (in a depressing and scary way) that there are MUSLIMS in our American engineering schools? These guys are learning everything they need to know, in order to build a radio controlled UAV in their garages.

    The “bad technology” is going to spread unless we wall the world out, with only us “good guys” inside (and we can never leave because who knows who we might give secrets to).

  50. Pro Libertate,

    Do I have a Second Amendment right to possess a killer flying robot? If so, I think I’m seeing a way to bring power back to the people 🙂

    I think the real question is, do you have a killer flying robot? If you do, then I for one pronounce you “a re-empowered people”.

  51. The government simply needs to add to all building codes a requirement that all buildings include a rooftop Phalanx CIWS.

    Now that is the coolest idea I’ve heard today. All we have to do is upgrade the software to differentiate “pigeon” from “evil bomb laden killer UAV”. Otherwise it’s going to interrupt your breakfast all the time.

    Of course, if you’re one of those people who hates pigeons and what they leave behind them, maybe you don’t need the upgrade.

  52. You know what’s unstoppable? Pigeon shit. Pigeon shit is absolutely positively unstoppable.

  53. Kahn, I’m a not sayin’ I do, but I’m not a sayin’ I dern’t, neither 😉

    Aside from the “killer” part, I keep toying with the idea of trying to build robots at home (I even bought some books on robotics and electronics). Of course, if I design and build a robot that can answer the door and serve drinks, who could blame me if I also added a built-in taser and flame thrower?

  54. Pro Libertate-

    If you are going to have a robot that lets people into your home and serves them drinks, it would be prudent to include the taser, if not the flamethrower.

    Of course, if you were going to build the Jersey McNannybot model, the flamethrower would oviously be standard equipment.

    [shame on me!]

  55. Ooh, I know. Green lasers for the robot’s eyes.

    No Three Laws for my robots, as much as I love Asimov. No, my robots will have one directive: Almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. Wait, no. I mean completely fanatical devotion to me.

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