Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Atomic Monarch (Danaus Plexippus: Plutonium Lepidoptera)


Back to insects and war. Defense Tech adds this beautiful specimen to the Entomomechanophilic Army, the Atomic Monarch. It was this New York Times' article How to Listen for the Sound of Plutonium, that alluded to "robotic butterflies" which could be designed "to monitor an atomic site while appearing to flutter by innocuously." Sound far fetched? Well, the robo-obsessed tweakers over at DARPA have such a program that hopes to reify an entirely brand new species of mechanical insects and nano-drones that could be used for any number of military operational purposes.



{Image: Monarch Butterflies, AP]


[Image: (Bugbios). Like airstrips of thousands of tiny fighter planes all lined up, these innocent-looking nuke-sniffing Danaus Plexippus' quietly wait to be deployed on their next operation.]

"Looking for novel ways to spy on its enemies, the Pentagon wants a drone that’s smaller than the Monarch butterfly, lighter than the Goliath beetle, and faster than the Hawk moth." The Red Herring desribes the NAV (nano-air vehicle) Program (pdf), which calls for "an unmanned plane no larger than 7.5 centimeters in any direction, a maximum weight at takeoff of 10 grams—about the heft of a ballpoint pen—and a top speed of up to 10 meters per second. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is expected to act like a flying sensor, taking video, for example, or sniffing the air for chemicals."


Check out AeroVironment's drones: The Wasp (a half-pound UAV that runs on batteries) | The Hornet (half-pound, fuel cell-powered UAV).

[NYT: "Emplacing unobtrusive reconnaissance/surveillance sensors in remote or special high-security areas also demands sophisticated means for delivery. [NAVs] may provide an effective means for precision delivery and emplacement of small, multi-element sensor packages to locations of interest."]


And, in case you were worrying about domestic use: “A typical police department can’t purchase and maintain a Predator,” one expert said. "But an inexpensive UAV that fits inside the trunk of a police cruiser could be a hot seller, especially as U.S. Department of Homeland Security money trickles down to metropolitan police departments." So beware of lazy things resembling monarchs swimming through the air, you might be the next unsuspecting star of another bugged out season of COPS.

See these earlier Subtopia posts for more background:
The Entomomechanophilic Army and Withus Oragainstus.

3 Comments:

Blogger happy consumptive said...

Reminds me of a talk Jerry Fiddler gave on the Smart Dust effort at UC Berkeley. He described piezolelectric-powered listening devices which would be powered by the vibrations of speech that they were designed to listen to. Throw in over-the-counter UAVs like Interactive Toy's Micro Mosquito and off you go.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...

Hey thanks, I hadn't heard of the 'Smart Dust', at least not a real project attempt at it. Thanks, Happy. Of course, it could be the ultimate bug army in disguise, that is, if the mechanized war insects don't get you, the NSA bug-repellent might. Household smart dust aerosol. First they'll scare us into believing the world is being overrun by killer insects (the African bee hysteria), and then they'll introduce these nifty travel-bag sized cans of killer-bug repellent (think a Rumsfeld version of Ben Stiller's 'Vapoo-rizer'), or some deviously unwarranted micro-surveillance anti-mosquito spray, and without knowing it humans will eat it up, spraying it all over each other like silly-string orgies or something. So watch out, you're doomed if you use the spray, and doomed if you don't. It all goes back to the Hellstrom Chronicle, who says our chemicals, our poisons, and our repellent agents have only strengthened the insects for more powerfully than man could ever possibly become himself. Welcome to the future of Raid!

10:37 AM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...

On a slightly less insect-obsessed tip, New Scientist has an article on anti-neutrino monitors, that could be placed near reactors to monitor the types and amounts of plutonium that are being developed, as part of a future nuclear policing strategy.

3:59 PM  

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