Feeds

Boeing shows automated spying, flying drone

Robot spyplanes deliver on Cingular

High performance access to file storage

AW & ST reports that the process began with an email sent from the cellphone to a console of the type used aboard AWACS radar planes. Because the email was written in a NATO standard nine-line format, it was processed through the AWACS battle-management software and a time-critical target icon popped up on the AWACS display. That display was then forwarded to the Scan Eagle drone control system automatically.

"The system did a re-plan in real-time without operator intervention," Williams told AW & ST. "It created new routes for the [drones] within a second that included the time critical target. Video of the new target was sent back to the AWACS and they opened it in a normal browser to confirm it was important."

Sure enough, it was important. In true War-on-Terror style, the hammer would - in the real world - have fallen out of the sky with devastating force.

"We vectored in simulated F-18s to destroy the target," said Williams, meaning that manned jets would have blasted the vehicle to scrap with a salvo of bombs or missiles.

"Finally, that video was forwarded to the guy on the ground using a regular Cingular cell phone."

If Williams has the sequence right, it certainly seems odd that the eyeball man on the ground didn't get the video before the airstrike. All he'd be able to do after the event would be to say "aw man, the damn robots got the wrong car again", or something.

In this simulation the attack planes were human-piloted, rather as in the case of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - al-Qaeda's then leader in Iraq - who was eliminated last year using a half-tonne of explosives delivered by F-16 jets. But, in fact, the robots can handle this part of the job too.

Consider this extract from the book Killer Elite by Times journo and former army intelligence operator Mick Smith.

"November 2, 2002 in Yemen, Bin Laden's ancestral home.

"There was little doubt that a Toyota Land Cruiser that could be seen bumping along a rocky desert road on the screens at CIA headquarters contained Qa’ed Sunyan al-Harethi, Bin Laden’s personal representative in Yemen and one of the top dozen members of Al Qaeda ... Harethi’s mobile phone was being tracked by [US special-forces techs]. They had been waiting for the moment when they could remotely programme it to switch itself on, to provide a target for an attack. Bush’s authorisation of assassination meant that the CIA and special operations commanders could kill him the moment they got eyeball on him. Now a pilotless Predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles moved into position above him. The Landcruiser and its occupants were reduced to little more than a few pieces of mangled metal..."

Since 2002, a Predator variant called Warrior has been designed, which will need no pilot even to land or take off. Add in a bit of the latest Boeing software magic to handle it on the job, and we can see that the day's coming when nothing more than a phone email - or even just the phone's presence, if it belongs to one of the unrighteous - could trigger a deadly robotic avalanche of death from the skies. More and more of the process is being automated.

It's almost not funny anymore; though it has to be said, not many of us wouldn't be interested in options to stalk people from above (or even in a few cases blow them up by email*) on our smartphones. What do we think? £30 a month?

The Boeing press release is here. ®

*Talk about your flame war. Etc.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
European Court of Justice rips up Data Retention Directive
Rules 'interfering' measure to be 'invalid'
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Cisco reps flog Whiptail's Invicta arrays against EMC and Pure
Storage reseller report reveals who's selling what
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Bored with trading oil and gold? Why not flog some CLOUD servers?
Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans cloud spot exchange
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
IT bods: How long does it take YOU to train up on new tech?
I'll leave my arrays to do the hard work, if you don't mind
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.