SAN FRANCISCO--My imagination throbbed during meeting at Rockwell
Collins in Iowa when Bob Newgard, director of advanced radio
systems, talked to us about
unmanned vehicles (video) and the commercial
"Think out of the box," he said. "We could make FedEx and UPS
And trucks. And trains (we already do).
But the real opportunity in the short term is the application of
much smaller UAVs: Ranchers keeping distant watch on their herds;
crop-dusting; rural mail delivery. Applications we're not even
thinking of. It's doable now.
This is an amazing world and era we live in...until you consider a
couple of videos.
video, a fellow has armed a helicopter drone with a
paintball gun to show its accuracy. In this other
video, someone has outfitted a helicopter drone with a
Springfield 1911-A pistol and blasted away at a target.
You get the picture. There are no rules and even if there were
rules, there's no way you could prevent dark uses of the technology,
especially from bad guys intent on it.What are you going to do,
prevent the manufacture of toy helicopters? Even if you did that, you can build these things yourself in your garage easily.
Vivek Wadwha brought this up earlier this week over coffee. He's as
much a technology cheerleader as I am, but he was
noticeably sad when he started describing how he's been researching
this topic for an article he's writing for the Washington Post.
"I have no answers," he said, almost plaintively, in describing the
potential societal consequences.
There more powerful and accessible the technology, the greater
tension between it and potential misuse.
This conversation needs to ramp up and quickly.
It is certainly true that the proliferation of spy helicopters will get out of hand next summer. And I wonder ho long before some terrorist loads one up with some really high explosive and sends one into a packed stadium, or someplace else. I do have a defense system against such devices, they have no defense against it. I have an airgun with a large-bore barrel. Picture an old sock full of sand at about 600 feet per second. That will take down any of those helicopters. It is even more effective if I use two smaller socks with a rope between them. Unlike the plastic airguns that may burst, these use old CO2 fire extinguisher tanks rated for 1800PSI, so at 150 PSI they have no bust hazard. Also, they are fairly quiet and have no muzzle flash. A very effective anti-spy-copter device.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.