Is That A Bug?, Or A Spy? Newly Released Documents Reveal DARPA Has Been Trying To Perfect Insect Espionage For Decades — But, The Future Of Warfare Is About To Change — Radically
Kelsey D. Atherton had an October 24, 2016 article in the online edition of Popular Science, with the title above. “There are few better infiltrators than insects,” he begins. “Small, flexible, and ubiquitous, bugs are easy to overlook. Surely, one might think, there’s a way to turn that creepy-crawly ability into a military surveillance tool. So, what better model is there to copy and masquerade as — in order to get a well-placed sensor into a denied facility that is a high priority for the Intelligence Community (IC)– than an insect sensor..
Mr. Atherton acknowledges that he piggy-backed on a 2015 Freedom of Information Act request by Susan Maret, a lecturer at San Jose State University, who requested information on, “DARPA’s Role In The Development And Application Of Hybrid Insect Microelectomechanical (HI-MEMS) Systems, as well as several other related subjects. The fruit of that request, Mr. Atherton writes, “is an 88-page document, most of its presentations from DARPA in 2006 and 2007 on the feasibility of small flying robots.”
“The majority of vehicles on display are palm-sized, (but) large enough to carry batteries; and fly — yet still to big to be used indoors,” he wrote. “The power problem is a vexing one for for [a] small, electric vehicle,” Mr. Atherton observes. DARPA “installed microsystems into the moth pupae, and let the insects grow muscle tissue around the electronics. And, that’s if the moth’s were lucky. Another attempt at moth electronics took moth pupae, cut them in half, and then inserted a clear glass pipe between the two halves. With the pipe in place, the moths completed development, showing one possible avenue for future scientists to insert electronics into the flying insects.”
The Future Of Warfare: Small, Many, Smart Versus Few And — Exquisite?
The future of warfare is going to dramatically change in the 21st century — perhaps more than at any other time in the long history of warfare. Game-changing battlefield weapons have changed the course of history — for both the victors and — the vanquished. Whether it was the dropping of the atomic bomb to end WWII, or the invention of killer drones such as the PREDATOR, The invention of the Maxim machine gun in the mid nineteenth century, and its use in WWI, dramatically changed the battlefield forever and is considered by most historians as the beginning of mechanized warfare. The Fokker Airplne’s debut in WWI, set the stage for the importance of airpower in WWII and beyond. And, the invention of killer drones such as the PREDATOR, laid the foundation for drone warfare There are of course other examples of game-changing weapons that dramatically altered warfare, and the course of history..
T.X. Hammes wrote in 2014 about the future of warfare in July 2014 in the publication Analysis and Commentary, in which he writes that the future of warfare is going to be “Small, and Many [Swarms], versus the Few and Exquisite?”
As much as I respect T.X., I do not believe he goes far enough. Sure, there are going to be swarms of drones — in the air, on the ground, and under the sea. And yes, smaller, more lethal and smart weapons, will dominate over the few and — the exquisite. Artificial intelligence will enable autonomous weapons and sensors to communicate and engage in warfare — without having human intervention in some cases. Smart weapons and sensors will engage targets — based on target activity, as well as re-engage based on target activity — again, without necessarily having to have a human in the loop. These same sensors will go dormant, and change like a chameleon when the adversary attempts to surveil it. Hypersonic weapons greatly reduces the time necessary to either defend or prosecute a military strike — from hours to minutes, or less.
Synthetic biology and 3D imaging will radically change the dynamics in warfare — as replacement weapons, new weapons, and so on, can be created/duplicated in real time. The super soldier on the battlefield, will be able to run faster, climb higher, think faster, and fight relentlessly over longer periods of time. Synthetic biology means the next pandemic could be downloaded from the Internet, as a deadly bug that could kill hundreds of millions of people can be created by an undergraduate biologist — and won’t require huge infrastructure costs, personnel, nor facilities.
The whole field of miniature and micro robotics is undergoing revolutionary and disruptive change, as we move from bigger, and slower, to smaller, exquisite, elegant, and deadly. Drones as small as a 7-11 coffee cup, carrying a DNA signature-enabled warhead could allow exquisite, and personal assassination — and virtually eliminate any collateral damage. Aircraft carriers in the sky — at the edge of space — will open the bay doors — letting all types, shapes, sizes, and missions of drones, who will swarm the battle-space and overwhelm the enemy.
Quantum computing and deep learning, will enable commanders to make better, and quicker decisions about when, where, and how to best engage the adversary; and, radically reduce the time needed to make such a decision from months to weeks, from weeks to days, from days to hours, and so on.
Quantum stealth and cloaking technology brings Harry Potter closer to reality, as we learn how to bend light and find newer and better ways to hide.
Smart weapons, and smart sensors will compensate for the environment, the terrain, the weather, and the adversary’s movement, all in real-time. Smart bullets, and smart bombs will seek out their specific targets and bring the notion of targeted killing to an art form.
In the future, the highly networked, congested, urban slums of the mega-cities of the 2050s, will require small, individual, and personal approaches to warfare, and negate — in many cases — the heavy weapons of today.
And, the small, insect-like sensor and weapons drones of tomorrow, will allow the Intelligence Community to conduct deep penetration and reconnaissance of the adversary, and extract the data clandestinely.
Of course not all of this will work as advertised, and the adversary gets a vote. And, the adversary will most certainly try and boomerang these same smart weapons back onto us, through wicked hacking, and reverse engineering. And, there could well be off-the-grid, ungoverned zones, where a networked enabled architecture does not exist. Fighting disconnected in some battle zones, will no doubt be required. But, quantum computing, deep learning, and artificial intelligence will radically transform our society and military in ways we cannot comprehend; and, not always for the better. But, it is coming; and, we need to be postured appropriately to use it to our advantage — before it is used against us. V/R, RCP