Re: TERRORISM: Seriousness and potential strategies

From: Greg Burch (
Date: Sat Sep 15 2001 - 22:24:14 MDT

Now we're talking about a technology I know something about -- or used to,
anyway. Folks who've been to my house know that the ceiling in my study is
the home of my old radio control birds. I've been thinking about the same
kinds of things, Robert. Obviously the range of small RPVs or AAVs is
relatively small (although a sailplane can stay aloft almost indefinitely in
the right conditions -- I used to keep my 2-meter birds in the air for hours
on good days).

The range problem can be solved though, by delivering the birds as if they
were munitions: drop a brace of them in a canister from the wings of an F-15
cruising at 50,000 feet, the canister braking by parachute closer to the
ground, opening and deploying its cargo of half a dozen folded-up
reconnaissance drones. Hell, with the right design and materials, you could
do it with an artillery shell.

The problem is the trade-off between speed, maneuverability and payload on
the one hand versus duration and range once the vehicle's under its own
power. A slow, silent electric-powered motor sailor could keep a camera
running up and down Afghan valleys for hours and hours in the hands of a
skilful pilot. I suppose an antenna could be built into the carbon fiber of
the plane's frame to give its radio the reach to get up to an AWACS relay.
I envision a clear dome on the plane's belly in which a pointable camera
could be housed. Mass-produced, you could build such a bird for under $5k
apiece. At DOD prices, I guess that means $100k.

As for shooting them down, well, I wouldn't want to try to do it with an AK.
I doubt the mujahadien have a lot of goose guns.

But I agree with Barbara that we have to worry about the people and weapons
that the bad guys already have pre-positioned in autonomous action cells in
the West.

Greg Burch
Vice-Presdient, Extropy Institute

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