Don't feel bad -- small miltary UAVs crash all the time, too

From a piece in today's New York Times on the push for more and better military microdrones:

There are some 4,800 Ravens in operation in the Army, although plenty get lost. One American service member in Germany recalled how five soldiers and officers spent six hours tramping through a dark Bavarian forest — and then sent a helicopter — on a fruitless search for a Raven that failed to return home from a training exercise. The next month a Raven went AWOL again, this time because of a programming error that sent it south. “The initial call I got was that the Raven was going to Africa,” said the service member, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss drone glitches.

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Comment by Ethan Ferrell on June 20, 2011 at 12:15pm
Nice to see that some members on here have systems that operate on par or better than the military class UASs. Goes to show how well open source and open hardware work.
Comment by iw28 on June 20, 2011 at 12:25pm
Month ago I saw the documentary series "Ross Kemp in Afghanistan" and they showed how to launch the Desert Hawk UAV. The Result was embarrassing, they ended with a crash :)
Comment by Alex Lee on June 20, 2011 at 1:24pm

Except, I don't have 240 million taxpayers to draw funds for new planes. :)


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Comment by Sgt Ric on June 20, 2011 at 2:04pm

From the vids I've seen, EVERY Raven landing is a crash!

 

Comment by Ethan Ferrell on June 20, 2011 at 2:08pm
Haha, so true! From what I've seen its supposed to crash-land and "disassemble itself" for quick retrieval and packing.
Comment by Not Sure on June 20, 2011 at 2:54pm

Yah, landing breakup is a great design flaw...er I mean feature, yes, feature!

 

Comment by Todd Hill on June 20, 2011 at 3:53pm

I know from first hand experience that Ravens are disaster prone.  I was in the service and hopped around from patrol base to patrol base.  Patrols were constantly going out looking for these things when they went out of control.  We often joked that they should have named it the Albatross. This is one of the very reasons why I am now so active in building and flying with the APM.  The military grade systems just can't compare with what you get in price and performance with the APM.  At least with the APM if you crash you haven't lost $35-250K of the tax payers dollars, plus the additional monetary and human costs of sending assets out to find it. 

   From what I understand the DOD knows this is a problem and is making attempts at addressing this.  They are very observant as to what is going on in this growing community, and others like it.  

Comment by Greg Fletcher on June 20, 2011 at 6:58pm
It's hard to believe that they have to search for them if they don't return. Don't they have the last GPS data on their ground station? Are they way overpaying for these systems or what?
Comment by Toby Mills on June 20, 2011 at 7:50pm

I don't think its fair to compare Open Source hardware and software with commercial or military equivalents.
For a start, Open Source hardware and Software is no cheaper than the military grade stuff, the difference is that everyone has donated their time for free with Open Source. If you added up all the development hours that have gone into getting the APM hardware designed, built, tested, GSC Software etc. It would be worth millions and millions of dollars.

The difference is the millitary has to account for this time and effort.
To us, the only cost is the cost of the components and hardware itself.

The military might use slightly higher grade compoenents with more redundancy, but if you strip it right back, the actual cost of building the hardware is not more or less than the APM, its just they count the development hours.

 

No the military are not being ripped off.

The Open Source equivalents are not magically cheaper.

 

The only question is whether there is an opportunity for the military to leverage parts of what the Open Source movement are doing, its highly unlikely they would use these platforms out of the box due to the inherant security risks. ie we don't care so much about the security of our planes, while they do.


I think its a little unfair to brand the military as being wasteful when they have to operate under a different set of rules to all of us. The reality is, that its the original military applications of these systems that inspired many of us to get involved in the open source community equivalents.


3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on June 20, 2011 at 8:02pm
Toby,

Why does the military have to operate under different rules? Why couldn't they use open source?

After all, the military already uses such open source software as Linux, Firefox, Apache, MySQL, etc. And DARPA has already decided to emulate our open innovation model with its UAV Forge:
http://diydrones.com/profiles/blogs/darpa-creating-its-own-diy

Open source is absolutely cheaper than milspec. "Cheaper" means what it costs, not the value of what went into it. Open source is free to the user, which is what matters.

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