The trouble with drones

Paul Raven @ 19-10-2010

When military hardware and software IP disputes meet: via Slashdot we hear of a pending lawsuit that may ground the CIA’s favourite toys, the Predator drones. In a nutshell, a small software firm called IISi alleges that some of their proprietary software was pirated by another firm, Netezza, who then sold it on to a government client which was revealed by further presentations of evidence to be none other than the Central Intelligence Agency. Plenty of grim irony in there, even before you factor in the allegations from IISi that the hacked software may render the drone targeting systems inaccurate to the tune of plus-or-minus forty feet. So it’s not all bad news for the CIA: at least they can start blaming collateral damage on shoddy outsourcing.

In other drone news, Chairman Bruce draws our attention to Taiwan, whose ministry of defense confirms that it is developing UAV designs of its own. We can assume that, in the grand tradition of Taiwanese electronics products, these will be cheap-and-cheerful alternatives to the more respectable brands of the Western military-industrial complex, ideal for tin-pot totalitarians and networked non-geographical political entities working to tight budgets. Hell only knows where they’ll get the software from, though.

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4 Responses to “The trouble with drones”

  1. brenda cooper says:

    The Mexican Navy is also rumored to be working on drones.

  2. Chad says:

    The interesting thing is that these drones are only really usefull when you have total air superiority, as they are rather slow and easily damaged.

  3. AnthonyA says:

    @Chad: For now, that’s true. That will change in the coming decades, and eventually, some nation will decide to have an Air Force that is entirely drone aircraft.

    If you can buy ten of them for the cost of one first line fighter, and only lose nine or less for each top of the line fighter shot down – then you are well on your way to air superiority, via quantity over quality.

  4. Chad says:

    @AnothonyA
    That arguement is true, but a good ways off from reality. The U.S. Air Force, the most advanced in the world, doesn’t even envision the possibility of dog fighting drones until after 2020.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/07/air-force-plans-for-all-drone-future/

    Plus, drones of this caliber wouldn’t necessarily be significantly cheaper. The Global Hawk can’t function in this capacity, but it is the closest at this point in time and it costs $123 million. The F-22 is a little over double that cost and the Global Hawk isn’t a threat to the F-22.