Thursday, 4 January 2018
By the start of the twenty first century very small, low cost real-time video cameras became widely available. These were to see numerous applications.
One novel application was in military reconnaissance and surveillance. Fitted in a rifle grenade or 40mm grenade gun round the camera could be fired above an area of interest. Hanging from a small parachute the camera could transmit a view of the area below for up to five minutes. GURPS version may be found on page 143 of 4e High Tech.
This idea will reach a new level of capability once equivalent rounds for mortars and howitzers are created. A weapon crew and the unit they are with could have a real time aerial view of a location kilometres distant. Such a view could be used for target selection, fire correction and damage assessment.
The projectiles used are similar to conventional illumination rounds. The round is fired above the target area where it ejects its cargo approximately 600 yards above. Some versions release a single camera carrier or just a small number. Other versions release dozens of smaller cameras that spread over a wide area. Where more than a single camera is used software may be used to process the image into a composite view which may be partially stereoscopic. Larger camera carriers may mount multiple cameras provide stereoscopic and alternate wavelength views.
A variety of systems are used to keep a camera aloft. The smaller or cheaper systems use the same parachute systems used with illumination rounds. These can be assumed to have a rate of descent of 5 yards per second. Some versions have rotors and/or deploy a hydrogen balloon. Balloon-equipped systems have longer endurance and are more reliable for high altitude terrain where the air may be thin. Rotor equipped systems can be manoeuvred for a better view of an area of interest.
“Sky-eye” munitions provide a useful compliment to surveillance fluff. Their large image sensors provide better resolution and can see in a broader spectrum range.
Less bellicose applications for this technology include search and rescue and surveying. For such applications disposable launchers or systems of a calibre that cannot take more lethal rounds may be developed.
Wednesday, 3 January 2018
“The president is never in public without a protection detail of eight battlesuits. Four of them are always close to him, the remainder work a few metres out as an outer screen. At least one of those suits is empty. You can’t tell which with the tinted faceplates.
Any sign of trouble and that hollow suit engulfs the president. Four suits then take off in different directions while the others act as a rear guard. It doesn’t matter if the president is wounded, unconscious or wants to stay, that suit will not stop until it has him in a safe area.”
In a previous post I examined the idea that battlesuits might be able to move when unoccupied, effectively becoming hollow-centred androids. I also touched on the idea of battlesuits moving irrespective to the wearer’s volition. A squad of empty SWAT battlesuits might take hostages on board and transport them out in armoured safety while a firefight might still be in progress. This concept is likely to be used by other services, such as fire departments or mountain rescue.
A battlesuit or similar device capable of autonomous movement might have other applications.
For example, a major obstacle in learning to hang glide must be learning to “throw yourself off a cliff”. A battlesuit could take over and perform such an action when necessary. Training for parachuting involves at least a day of drilling so that you do not hesitate when you reach the door. A battlesuit could be programmed to automatically walk the occupant to the door and jump. Likewise, the suit might perform related skills such as free fall or wingsuit manoeuvrer and safe landing. Potentially individuals with no relevant training could jump like experts, whether they want to or not!
Capability for autonomous movement has other applications. High diving is an obvious one. If a soldier has to jump off a high cliff into a lake the suit may take over. Continuing with the theme of jumping the suit might be programmed with pakour/ free running-type movements, allowing the user to jump from rooftop to rooftop or branch to branch like an expert. The suit’s rangefinders and its ability to precisely regulate the force used for a jump are an obvious advantage. Likewise the suit may advise the wearer when a jump just cannot be made.
A friend of mine suggested that a suit could be programmed to override a wearer’s flinch reaction when hit by non-penetrating weapons fire. This suggests that actions such as dashing between cover might be autonomous. Perhaps the wearer selects the next desired position and lets their suit select the best way to reach it.
Autonomous movement capability has various advantages but is likely to concern some potential users. It can be argued that the user is surrendering control of their fate and free-will. Suits can be programmed to perform certain actions even if the wearer does not want them to. A sabotaged control system could deliberately put the user in hazardous situations and is potentially a means of kidnap or assassination. There may be battlesuits that are deliberately incapable of autonomous movement. Distrust of battlesuit control system might be a possible quirk, and a reason for discharge from the military.
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
To many people the term “combat robot” conjurors an image of a man-shaped machine with machine guns for arms. Such are not unknown in the world of Transhuman Space but the majority of “robotic armoured tactical systems” (RATS) take other forms. Some are armoured fighting vehicles. Many others have reptilian (snakebots, mecha-geko) or arthropoid (spider, crab, millipede) configurations.
Many RATS are designed to have high levels of packability. A typical armoured personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle can carry between five and eleven baseline humans. A lot of internal space is used for seating, equipment stowage or just elbow room. A similar vehicle may carry a dozen or more RATS. Many RATS are designed to occupy a cubical envelope of space when inactive. Such “packages” can be tightly stowed in a vehicle, stacked from floor to ceiling. Smaller RATS may be fitted in the spaces between. The RATS have algorithms that help them load or disembark as rapidly and as efficiently as possible.
Packability is a major design criteria for “jump-RATS” [TS 3e p.101]. These systems must fit into the interior of containers resembling 2,000lb glide bombs. Assume these to be cylinders with internal diameters of a shade under half a yard. Jump-RATS are designed to stow as cylindrical or “cake-slice” shapes.
Highly packable RATS offer some interesting potential applications. A deadly fighting machine can be hidden in places where no human could. Is the human security guard’s reception desk really just furniture?