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Textron's T-Ram is the Suicidal Mini-UAV You've Always Wanted

What's an easy way to arm a surveillance UAV? Just have it crash into whatever it's been spying on and blow itself up

2 min read
Textron's T-Ram is the Suicidal Mini-UAV You've Always Wanted

The U.S. Air Force has been looking for what they're calling a "Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System" to be fielded with special ops units next year. If the name of the program doesn't explain it, the above pic should: they essentially want a mortar round with wings, a camera, and a little engine. In other words, a surveillance UAV that can suicidally attack targets on command.

There are several systems with this capability currently in the works, but the operational requirements and principles are all the same. LMAMS needs to weigh three kilos or less, including the vehicle and the launching system. It needs to be able to deploy and fire in under 30 seconds, reach an altitude of 100 meters, and acquire and track a human-sized target in a further 20 seconds. At that point, the drone can either dive at its target, landing within a one meter radius and exploding its small (but still quite lethal) warhead, or it can loiter for up to 30 minutes, sending back live video.

Now, this seems like a fairly dangerous little robot to have around, but before you get all worked up about killer robots and stuff, remember that these special ops units already have tools to deal with situations that the LMAMS is designed for: namely, blindly chucking dumb mortars and grenades at things, calling in air support, or putting themselves in harms way to get a better view of their target. All the LMAMS does is to reduce risk and collateral damage. Or at least, that's the idea, but whether it'll work in practice remains to be seen.

The UAV in the picture is Textron Defense Systems' T-RAM, which stands for Tactical Remote Aerial Munition. You can watch it in action in the video below, which features a soundtrack that's inappropriately Indiana Jonesish: 

[ Textron Systems ] via [ Aviation Week ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
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In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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