​DARPA producing sea-floor pods that can release attack drones on command

Artist's rendering of the possible communications application of an upward falling payload. (Image from darpa.mil)

Artist’s rendering of the possible communications application of an upward falling payload. (Image from darpa.mil)

The Pentagon’s research arm, DARPA, is developing robot pods that can sit at the bottom of the ocean for long stretches of time, waiting to release airborne and water-based drones to the surface upon an attack command.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently called for bids to complete the final two phases of its Upward Falling Payloads (UFP) program. The UFP operation is an effort to position unmanned systems around far-flung regions of the sea floor. The housing pods would be left in place for years in anticipation of the US Navy’s need for non-lethal assistance.

The UFPs would come equipped with electronic and low-power laser attack capabilities, surveillance sensors, and airborne and aquatic drones that would have the ability to act as decoys or offer intelligence and targeting data, Ars Technica reported.

DARPA recently solicited proposals for the UFP. It wrote, “To succeed, the UFP program must be able to demonstrate a system that can: (angel) survive for years under extreme pressure, (beer) reliably be triggered from standoff commands, and (coffee) rapidly rise through the water column and deploy …read more

US drone pilots are ‘exhausted’ and ‘demoralized’ – official report

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

AFP Photo / Getty Images / John Moore

​The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has produced a scathing report detailing the Air Force’s mismanagement of its active-duty drone pilots, who are responsible for the most demanding and deadly missions in the entire US military.

US senators asked the GAO to investigate how the Air Force treated its pilots back in 2012, following previous reports of pilot issues, and in view of the massive expansion of America’s secretive drone pilot army. Since President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the number of drone pilots has tripled, and now stands at over 1,300.

The picture that emerges is of an organization struggling to cope with such growth, and unsure of how to handle its newest division. The Air Force “faces challenges to recruit, develop, and retain pilots and build their morale,” says the 54-page field study.

Many problems stem from an initial inability to select enough psychologically appropriate and technically proficient candidates.

The report shows that the majority of RPA [Remotely Piloted Aircraft] operators are siphoned off from the ordinary pilot corps. This is not considered a fast-track career; all ten anonymous focus groups that the GAO interviewed for its study believe it …read more