English village to be invaded in spybot competition

A village in south-west England will shortly be swarming with robots competing to show off their surveillance skills.

The event is the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) answer to the US DARPA Grand Challenge that set robotic cars against one another to encourage advances in autonomous vehicles.

This village, built for urban warfare training during the Cold War, will host teams of ground-based and aerial robots hunting for snipers, bombs, and other threats (Image: MoD)
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This village, built for urban warfare training during the Cold War, will host teams of ground-based and aerial robots hunting for snipers, bombs, and other threats (Image: MoD)

The MoD Grand Challenge is instead designed to boost development of teams of small robots able to scout out hidden dangers in hostile urban areas.

Over 10 days in August, 11 teams of robots will compete to locate and identify four different threats hidden around a mock East German village used for urban warfare training, at Copehill Down, Wiltshire (see image, top right).

The robots must find snipers, armed vehicles, armed foot soldiers, and improvised explosive devices hidden around the village, and relay a real-time picture of what is happening back to a command post.

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Pentagon chief seeks more drones in Iraq

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) – The U.S. military needs more drones and equipment to collect intelligence and conduct surveillance in Iraq despite a big boost in those capabilities since 2001, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday.

But Gates said he has hit resistance inside the Pentagon and indicated that the Air Force’s desire to use pilots for its missions has kept the Defense Department from employing more effective and lower cost unmanned aircraft.

“I’ve been wrestling for months to get more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets into the theater,” Gates told officers at the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.

“Because people were stuck in old ways of doing business, it’s been like pulling teeth,” he said. “While we’ve doubled this capability in recent months, it is still not good enough.”

Gates said he formed a task force last week to quickly find new ways to get those capabilities to Iraq and Afghanistan. He said the group’s findings may force the Air Force to replace pilots with unmanned aircraft on some missions.

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Pilotless surveillance aircraft are being trialled across Britain

Nicked by PC Drone, robot spy in the sky
Pilotless surveillance aircraft are being trialled across Britain, heralding a new era in the policing of our roads, writes Mark Harris

Speeding tickets from the sky might sound like science fiction, but the robot spy-plane technology that is used in the war on terror in Afghanistan may soon be coming to British roads.

Under a government-funded scheme, a new generation of pilotless drones could be patrolling motorways within the next five years. Although they will initially use cameras to record and monitor accidents and provide traffic-flow data, they have the potential to spot speeding offences and identify reckless or uninsured drivers.

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Forest Service buys UAVs to spy on public

U.S. FOREST SERVICE FIELDING FLEET OF DRONES – Law Enforcement Wants “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” Hovering Above Forests

Washington, DC – The U.S. Forest Service has purchased pilot-less aircraft to provide day and night photo reconnaissance for its law enforcement program, according to agency records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The two “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or drones, may represent the beginnings of wider conversion of military robotic technology for civilian uses.

The two “Sky Seers” were obtained by the Forest Service on December 10, 2007 at a cost of $100,000 from Chang Industries, Inc. of La Verne, California. The package includes one “day version” and one “night version” of the drone, together with a “Pan/tilt thermal camera” to record heat signatures at night.

A March 12, 2007 purchase request from the Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations (LE&I) program states it “has been monitoring and evaluating UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] intermittently since 1997, when their use was considered in support of Operation Linebacker, a border enforcement initiative.” While this “Sole Source Request” details desired equipment specifications, the Forest Service could produce no documents spelling out what they want to use drones for or why pilot-less craft are preferred, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from PEER.

The drones purchase took place shortly after Forest Service LE&I spent $600,000 buying tasers for its entire enforcement staff, without any guidelines or training program. The tasers are still sitting in storage cartons. After PEER revealed the taser fiasco, LE&I staff told PEER about the drones and suggested a records request in order to validate staff concerns that the purchase –

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Spy-in-the-sky drone sets sights on Miami

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Miami police could soon be the first in the United States to use cutting-edge, spy-in-the-sky technology to beef up their fight against crime.

A small pilotless drone manufactured by Honeywell International (HON.N), capable of hovering and “staring” using electro-optic or infrared sensors, is expected to make its debut soon in the skies over the Florida Everglades.

If use of the drone wins Federal Aviation Administration approval after tests, the Miami-Dade Police Department will start flying the 14-pound (6.3 kg) drone over urban areas with an eye toward full-fledged employment in crime fighting.

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