back to article Robot gunships join US Army

The march of the killer droids continues, with news that a US robot helicopter gunship has passed a significant milestone - engine testing. This success means the robot can head for production - once avionics and sensors arrive. The cyber-copter in question is the RQ/MQ-8 vertical takeoff and landing tactical unmanned air …


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  1. Shaun

    Navy version?

    Is it supposed to look like a submarine?

  2. amanfromMars

    be aware, there are forces at work in the country of which we have no knowledge

    Hmmm... an astute comment, Shaun.

  3. bambi

    Fo God sake dont tell Tony

    After hearing that the UK government is planning on using smaller version of these to track ner-do-wells where static cameras cant follow, are we to see these deployed at footie matches fully armed with EU issue paintballs?

    Still it beats shooting at clays......

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back to the future

    Official government policy in the UK whilst the Lightning was being designed was that the lightning would be the last generation of manned fighters. Nearly 50 years ahead of their time, but here we sit, our governments eyeing up this concept again. Next ?...... How about putting this kind of hardware on manned aircraft, if the pilot is disabled, the aircraft takes over.....


  5. Morely Dotes

    A rare event

    @ Andy: A disabled pilot in a functional combat aircraft is a pretty rare event - generally, if the pilot is disabled, it's because the bird has been shot up so badly that it can't fly any more. The exception is in helicopters, where a pilot may be hit about as easily as the mechanics - but the weight premium in adding a redundant robopilot would be prohibitive. You could have robotics, or payload, but not both.

    So, there's little or no point to it in a fixed-wing aircraft, and none whatsoever in a rotary-wing.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The weight premium in adding a redundant robopilot" would be nil, because it would be software. The pilot's control inputs and all the instrumentation is fed through the flight computer already; perhaps the aircraft might need a camera pod with all-round vision, but that could be shrunk down to the size and weight of a chicken and asparagus pie.

    The biggest worry is that modern combat jets are capable of sustained manoeuvres that would injure or kill a pilot. The software would have to place limits on its actions, or have a circuit that could decide IF THREAT=AVOIDABLE THEN KEEP_PILOT_ALIVE ELSE PILOT_DEAD_ANYWAY SO CONSTRAINTS_OFF.

  7. Matthew Garrett

    MS Blue Screen of death

    Porker , so long as they dont use MS , other wise the poor pilot may have more troubles than he can handle.

    Been attacked by a MIG and MS at the same time.

    Does not bear thinking about.

  8. Andy Enderby

    mmmm chicken.

    I just spat my first esspresso of the day all over my much loved Amilo D lappie at that chicken and asparagus pie comment Ashley. Please don't do it again. Hehehe

    Seriously, modern combat aircraft from F16 on, the autopilot and FLCS (fly by wire system) are getting more and more integrated to the point of quite possibly being in the same physical enclosure. This is the point I really wanted to make.


  9. garry

    When will they learn

    i mean copters without pilots means tht there just goin 2 get hack n some little teenager in his bedroom will have control over 3million pounds worth of warfare i mean dare... i mean it the land of MS so there copter will be hacked so fast, lol i wait 2 see the mess they will put them selves in.

  10. Register Reader

    hacked copter?

    what makes you think that these choppers will have any means of external input at all? I would think that is just a security risk.. quite possibly there would be some signal you can use to cause it to self destruct in emergencies (that could be randomised each time you send it out so as to reduce chances of the enemy being able to set it off..), but any other means of control shouldn't be necessary.

  11. Michael Chester

    re: hacked copter

    Bearing in mind that there is no sure-fire way to identify a friendly from an enemy target automatically (see pretty much any friendly fire incident in the last 10 years), there is likely to be at least an override, if not a manual target confirmation on these. Possibly not in the US but it would be required if the UK developed something similar (due to the requirement for there to be line of sight to a target, not just a lock from some other sensor, which is not required for all American pilots)

  12. denuj

    "...what makes you think that these choppers will have any means of external input at all?"

    and how do you think they plan to deploy this, on it's own?

    like they'll set it out and it will automatically determine who's the good guy and who's not? c'mon. there has to be a confirmation, at the very least, unless the software is from Microsoft. hehehe.

    now, if you'll say it's going to be an attack helicopter wherein it will be deployed in an area like a mountain side where they suspect Osama is hiding and then just blow the mountain away w/o anything in mind then it's just duplicating the function of a laser guided missile and more costly since this robot copters can easily be shot down by SAMs.

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