Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Will Future Wars Be Fought By 3D Printed Robots?

Via Unknown Country:

These days, it appears that there are few things that Man can do, that a machine could not do as well, or even better.

This apparently includes engaging in warfare.

Certainly, defense is an area where no expense is spared in developing the latest technology and improving performance, but sometimes constructing advanced weaponry can take a very long time.

For example, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet was the most technologically advanced fighter ever created, designed back in 1983 to give the US military a tactical edge in the Cold War, but it took 22 years - and $39 billion - before it was delivered, 14 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

So the military powers have been looking for a viable alternative that will not take so long in research and development, and will not be so costly.

"All the technologies conceived at the fall of the Berlin Wall are now being used in Iraq and Afghanistan", said Ben FitzGerald, a Senior Fellow at the D.C. defense think-tank Center for a New American Security.

Fitzgerald believes he has come up with a solution, and it involves an unlikely technology: 3D printers.

The potential of 3D printing is incredible, but it is difficult to conceive how one might utilise them in open warfare.

In a design specification entitled "Process Over Platforms A Paradigm Shift in Acquisition Through Advanced Manufacturing", Fitzgerald outlines his idea, which would not look out of place on the pages of a science fiction novel.

In short, rather than spending billions of dollars and decades constructing advanced manned aircraft in very small numbers, it may be possible for robotic assembly lines to build thousands of unmanned "drones" from 3D-printed parts.

Fitzgerald conceives that the infinitely configurable drones could be deployed in huge swarms, like killer bees, and controlled by digital pilots.

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has forecast that the future of military warfare lies predominantly in unmanned craft, with fighter jets being replaced by smaller, more manoeuvrable alternatives that can be controlled remotely.

This would be less costly, more effective and would result in fewer pilot fatalities, so it is a popular concept that is being seized upon by governments worldwide.

Will our skies soon be darkened by robot wars?

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