Tuesday, January 16, 2018

How about this in the hands of terrorists?

We had some spirited discussions in these pages a few days ago (follow those three links to find the articles), concerning terrorist attacks on a Russian airbase in Syria, using 'hobbyist'-style quadcopter drones as well as some homemade larger models.  Some people are still unconvinced that the former pose any realistic threat.

Now Boeing has announced the development - in just three months from 'clean-sheet' concept to a flying prototype - of an octocopter that can carry payloads of up to 500 pounds.

Octocopters big enough to carry a human passenger have already been announced.  If Boeing can build something like that shown above in three months, using off-the-shelf components, I'm willing to bet a backyard mechanic team can do something similar in a year or so.  Given that sort of payload capability - 500 pounds is the weight of a standard USAF Mark 82 bomb - there are all sorts of nasty weapon and target combinations that come to mind.

Amazon.com is already talking about using UAV's to deliver parcels and packages.  UPS and FedEx are doing the same.  We'll soon be seeing something like this drone in the skies around our homes.  Terrorists are sure to figure out that by painting their drone in familiar colors, and sticking a couple of commercial logos on it, and wrapping its payload in cardboard or plastic to resemble a commercial delivery, they can operate their drones with virtual impunity.  I damn well guarantee it.  This genie is well and truly out of the bottle.



Aesop said...

Unlike prior threads, that thing not only works, it's the size of a bathtub. Which puts it back on the grid for standard AAA and AA missiles.

Boeing can try to bootstrap things (good luck), but what killed recent package delivery schemes was people not wanting unpiloted aircraft big enough to kill somebody zooming through their neighborhoods 24/7/365, and that, coupled with the utility of converting this to terrorism, is going to kill it again.

Will it carry a workable payload?
That makes it an aircraft, and outside the military/gov, aircraft require a pilot.
People on the ground will shoot those things down for sport, and the first time one comes down on a freeway or playground and kills somebody, the lawsuits will end the entire scheme.

You want to carry 500 pounds of payload 10 miles?
Call UPS, instead of flying it over my head, my home, and putting everyone underneath at risk.

The problem with something this size isn't that it can't work, it's that it can.

And incidentally, it's big enough to take out general aviation aircraft and helicopters, while being small enough to be missed by most pilots, and being dumb itself, which really fornicates up the entire concept of VFR airspace.

Take out a family in Cessna, just once, and guys will be going up in Piper Cubs and biplanes with semi-auto shotguns hunting for those things to shoot them down.

Andrew said...

I watched National Geographic's "Chain of Command" show last night. First episode had, yep, ISIS using weaponized drones. Funny, some of them looked just like the tiny hobby drones that someone who posts here says couldn't carry a weapon. The Iraqi Self Defense forces sure seemed to be all assed-up about them, though.

And, anti-drone defense seems to be either of the low tech 'shoot-them' variety or the super-duper USA system that jams the signals of the drones and sends them back to the user (if the drone has an auto-return feature.)

So, well, darned.

TheOtherSean said...

Maybe somebody will do the world a favor and take out WorldCon with one.

Glen Filthie said...

I'm sure EVERYONE (especially Aesop) has been waiting on pins and needles for my scholarly opinion. ;)

First, that thing is a one-off concept vehicle. Betcha money we're looking at about $100K at least. All Aesop says above is basically correct.

The problem with all this is power. Those batteries have to be something right out of the Skunkworks or DARPA labs. All of this tech is light years out of Abu-Al-Fuknuk-Al's league. When you consider that he is flummoxed by the workings of a flush toilet or AK47 - he's still better off with RPG7's, mortars, IED's and conventional weapons.

But I'm glad you're finally putting some effort into this, Pete. I'm still laughing about that pic of the fighter jet with the tailfeathers blown off by a plastic toy, and the ammo dump that was clearly destroyed by a rocket attack rather than toy drones.

So my verdict is - yes, you COULD weaponize that thing... but why bother?

Don in Oregon said...

Don't underestimate the engineering talent in that part of the world. There were a lot of Iranian guys in American engineering schools back in the late 70's and early 80's and they were pretty sharp. And the bad guys don't have to (re)invent all this stuff, they just have to buy it.

New Chinese drone: https://www.pcworld.com/article/3019704/consumer-electronics/the-ehang-184-is-a-single-passenger-drone-that-transports-people-yes-people-at-11-000-feet.html Two hundred lb payload, 23 minutes duration, 30 mile range. Also, interesting concept for U-shaped flight profiles (which could help with the VFR airspace issue).

Unknown said...

David Lang says:

As long as adding a battery and motor increases the net lift of the vehicle, nothing stops you from having 30 motors with normal batteries and motors to get to whatever load capacity you want (assuming your load is distributed enough that you don't need to increase the weight of the frame at a higher rate than you add lift)

controlling 30 motors is 'just software'

If you think that yahoos flying around shooting guns out of aircraft are going to make a dent in the number of drones out there, you are ignoring all the damage their ammo that misses the drones is going to do (and you are assuming that the attackers are practicing near their targets)

I won't even start on the stupidity of thinking that FAA pilot regulations are going to slow down people prepared to commit murder

Aesop said...

Low reading comprehension is curable.

The "yahoos" shooting at the things will be GA pilots not inclined to get taken out by some jacktards' pilot-stupid package delivery toys infesting VFR airspace, not people looking to cure terrorism. (Where you got any other idea is a mystery for the ages.)

The "damage" caused by shotgun pellets falling from altitude would be negligible. You might do the physics calculations on the destruction wrought from Creation to the present by a nominal 1-oz crap from a seagull at altitude, multiplied by the worldwide seagull population through 2018, and see if you can figure out what happens when a fraction of an oz lead pellet plummets to earth instead. We're not talking about sending 20MM Vulcan cannon HE-T slugs downrange. But why let reality get in the way of a great rant, right?

I won't even comment on the stupidity of assuming anything I said about FAA regs was presumed to affect terrorists to any degree, because evidently that was pulled from the same orifice as the previous comment's stream-of-consciousness.

English is a thing.
You should learn it.
Logic too, for that matter.
Then you wouldn't have to spend so much time building strawmen and knocking them back down solely for your own amusement, but that's what happens when you supply answers not germane, to arguments not made.

But yes, adding batteries and motors would theoretically increase the payload/range capacity of this or any drone.

For the same reason a B-52 can carry a greater payload of coconuts than can be borne by a migratory swallow gripping a coconut by the husk.

Right up to the point sizewise that said drone shows up as both a radar target and heat source, and someone blows it to pieces at distance with a Stinger, Sidewinder, or AMRAAM missile miles from its intended target, the entire advantage set of a miniscule COTS drone having been completely obviated by making it so much bigger, and they'll be splattered from the sky at Mach 5, while doing nothing but providing local air defense with regular practice drills, and giving the DHS bloodhounds new rabbits to hunt.

The Air Force (actually, about twenty different ones) figured out that particular math/physics problem in the 1960s.

And Glen:
Check your glasses. The only rockets in the munitions dump explosion referenced previously were outbound from ground zero, and after the thing was fully involved and aflame. The videos were only started after the dumps were fully involved and gloriously aflame. That's what happens when you drop thermite onto propellants and high explosives, and set acres of it on fire.

When you find a video taken before the explosions of an alleged drone attack, showing the rocket arc you imagine (probably with the video recorder catching the cameraman repeating "Allahu Akbar" or "Путин сосет" repeatedly), by all means, link to it.

urbane legend said...

Drunks with guns in Cessnas? Nah, nothing could possibly go wrong. /sarc

So, we are all still going to die?

Billll said...

Forest, Trees? Will this thing carry 200 lb 20 miles? if so hang a canvas Bosun's chair under it and use it as a flying car to commute to work. Park in the company-supplied electric vehicle slots and recharge for 8 hours, then buzz home. Hopefully you can make a controlled landing on 7 motors should one conk out. Watch out for power lines and the morning traffic copter.

Glen Filthie said...

Yer full a beans Aesop! :) I'm sorry, I clearly saw rockets fired at that ammo dump on that vid. And no, a plastic toy will not take the empennage off an armoured fighter plane.

And no. Adding more batteries and motors won't necessarily increase payload and flight time. To make drones effective weapons you need to increase the power to weight ratio. (Especially if you plan to use toy drones as weapons). Then you need to communicate and control it. That means advanced radio and control technologies.

Sorry boys but terrorists won't be using these things as weapons an time soon.

Peter said...

@Glen: You need to read the linked articles describing those attacks. The rockets you saw were exploding INSIDE the ammo dumps, AFTER the drone attacks with thermite grenades. The details are known. It's not rocket science.

David Lang said...

David Lang says:

no, you don't have to increase the power-to-weight ratio, you just need to increase the total payload.

Airships have a horrible lift-to-weight ratio, but if you make them big enough, you can have a huge amount of cargo capacity.

you don't need to have these things have 20 mile range, If you have a mile or two, you can drive a pickup with one of these things into the area, launch and leave well before any response forces can get to you.

they were going to fly a 2-seater commuter multicopter at CES, but the flight got grounded due to weather. The short blurb I saw on it talked about it being powered by a diesel generator instead of batteries to get it's range.

all of you saying that these things can't scale, search for large drones on youtube

manned homemade drone (oct 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pI2j4KEPQI4

160 pound drone that can lift it's own weight (may 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyfeceC8WXw

commercial prototype of human carrier (Jan 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G4Qduvn5og

various human carying drones (Jan 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9tM7-k9sic

"human carrying drones" finds
As for automated air defenses, these things can come in at low altitude, below the roof level of nearby buildings, below the level of the anti-aircraft fire.

And trading multi-million dollar missiles or thousand dollar drones is not a winning trade over the long term.

Andrew said...

Glen, Glen, Glen.

They already are. If even the libtards at NatGeo are reporting it, that means it is quite common. Them ISIS boys are probably a tad bit smarter than you in their ability to kludge something up and make it go boom, after all, there are all those engineering students that went to American, British and German universities that dropped off the net after the Jihad started. Along with all those helpful Chinese and Indians and Pakistanis.

Roy said...

I'm reading this - Peter's post and the comments - and I'm asking: "What's the point?"

Can drones be weaponized? Yes, possibly, probably.

Can they be scaled up to carry serious weapons? Yes, probably. But as someone else pointed out, at some point you get big enough to enter standard AA and missile shoot-down territory. We'e dealing with that already. So what.

Do we need to worry about all of the terrorists and the technology they might get their hands on? I don't know about you, but for me that answer is "NO". I refuse to do a flop-and-twitch because of what some third-world a$$hole might be "someday" capable of.

Technology marches on regardless of whether I worry about it or not. Technological improvisation begets technological response. And regardless of the payload, the light toy drones can be stopped by something as simple as a net.

Aesop said...

"And trading multi-million dollar missiles or thousand dollar drones is not a winning trade over the long term."

Another jet-fuel genius.

1) What Boeing probably spent in parts, testing, and engineering man-hours, to create the drone in the video would likely support a family of four for a year in NYFC. At Trump Plaza. The batteries alone probably cost more than your car, even if you drive a Freightliner semi-trailer with attached motorhome suite.

2) A Stinger goes for $38K@.
The latest Sidewinder is up to $690K, but that's because we haven't bought very many yet. Prior editions were $100-200K@.
The AMRAAM is approx. $350K@.
Russian and Chinese examples are orders of magnitude cheaper (the benefits of glorious socialism in action).
If you're buying multi-million dollar missiles on your shopping spree, you're doing it wrong, Dr. Evil.
And yet again, the Internet is a thing.
Maybe look up Dunning-Kruger while you're surfing.

3) An average military hand fragmentation grenade costs about $50. So, how much should anyone spend to stop one from going off on your kids' playground during recess, or up your personal tailpipe?
Do the math, and show your work.

Most countries in the First World would happily expend a multi-thousand dollar missile to prevent DirkaDirka Jihad from taking out a building full of people, regardless of the unit cost of the drone, and then pile on by happily spending a few pallets of cash to blow DirkaDirka, his friends, his village, and all their goats off the map, even if it required a full carrier alpha strike, or a sortie of B-2s from Missouri and six mid-air refueling rendezvous, before we even get to the cost of the ordnance we'd expend.
That's how the math is actually done.

Aesop said...

And to the person who posted this gem:
"Drunks with guns in Cessnas? Nah, nothing could possibly go wrong. /sarc":
Point to the place where anything but the voices in your head said they'd be drunk.
I'll wait while you find that.
Or is that you just imagine that anyone who fires a gun must be so?
Just wondering.

What you think you saw, unfortunately can't be found on the referenced videos, so I repeat, check your glasses.

Neither of those videos was started before the ammo dumps in question were already gloriously aflame. Because the persons shooting the video didn't know the dumps were going to blow up in advance. Reality is funny like that. Ditto for human reaction.
That's how time works, so everything doesn't happen all at once.

The rocket arcs visible were secondary explosions set off because of the initial fire, which all sources report was caused by drone(s) dropping an incendiary on the target. You can tell this using common sense and Mk I eyeballs, because the exhaust trails originate at the site that's burning and exploding, and travel outwards from that area.
Physics is funny like that too.

Sorry the facts and the video don't accord with your expertise, from months later and thousands of miles away.
If you have a video of either incident, or any others, shot from before the initial explosions, showing the original rocket launch and impact, post the link, by all means, and we can all see for ourselves.
Otherwise, as previously noted, you're out of your depth trying to do forensic analysis on secondary detonations from a fully-involved ammo dump fire from YouTube video, and you can't even see why.

And that tailplane from the crippled aircraft wasn't damaged by the plastic drone, it was destroyed by the PG-7 antitank warhead the drone was carrying. But you knew that, and chose to misrepresent it to bolster your pathetically weak case.
I'm guessing you don't have any feel whatsoever for how much damage 500mm of armored steel penetration by a shaped charge equates to on aircraft aluminum tailplanes. Jeez, man, Stevie Wonder could argue your case better than you do yourself, and he'd have quit five tries ago.

Seriously man, this is getting to be drowning-puppies-painful.
Just let it go. You missed that bus, and it ran you over. Then backed up over you a few times, to be sure.
Digging in your heels isn't going to stop the bumper on the next pass.
Dust yourself off, and try to do better tomorrow.

David Lang said...

David Lang says:

I agree that we can't go into twitches worrying about all the bad things that can be done with off-the-shelf technology.

I'm just trying to counter the people who say 'there is no threat'

Standard AA envelope does not cover things as small as even the large human carrying devices, especially if they are largely made out of composite materials instead of metal.

These things don't require a large area to work from, and even the large ones comfortably fit in the back of a truck

light helicopters could be a similar threat, but they don't generally come with autopilot and even the small ones are a bit larger than these things.

And for everyone else who points out how much the drone in the article probably cost, look at what people are building at home and putting on youtube, those aren't costing these people a years salary, they are being built by hobbiests.