Darpa is holding a contest to design the military’s next spy mini-drone. So far, the entrants include a flying pogo stick, a sail that lands on mosques, and an unmanned laser shooter.
Those are some of concept videos submitted to UAV Forge, a Pentagon experiment to crowdsource the development of unmanned aerial vehicles. DIY-drone hobbyists are encouraged to work together to create the flying spy-bot of the future. It has to fit in a rucksack and be operated by just one person without any help, guidelines say.
This isn’t the first time that the Pentagon’s done crowdsourcing exercises. There was the “Network Challenge,” which sent people scrambling around the country for 10 big red balloons in an attempt to “explore the roles the internet and social networking play [in] timely communication, wide-area team-building, and urgent mobilization.” And Darpa also announced this year that it would give $10,000 for the best design for new “Combat Reconnaissance and Combat Delivery & Evacuation” vehicles.
Everyone taking part in the UAV contest have to post videos of their designs, so other hardware tinkerers can vote on and critique their ideas. After that, they’ll have to demonstrate that their design can actually fly. From a live video demo, 10 teams will be picked — and given up to $15,000 each — to take part in a “fly-off.” The winning team gets $100,000 of prize money, a subcontract with a manufacturer, and the chance to see to their project in use in a military operational demo. UAV Forge has been talking to Google, which is considering using UAVs to capture Google Earth images, according to PC Magazine.
Here are the ideas you get when you tap into the wisdom of the DIY-drone hackers.
The XL-161 Trinity (above) is a solar- and fuel-powered unmanned airborne laser system that can “destroy any aircraft or ballistic missile within a wide range.” It stores solar energy in batteries for nighttime use. A laser turret, which contains an infrared camera and rangefinder, has “all-angle turning capability” to target shots in any direction below the aircraft.