Archive: Nov 2015

  1. UAVs Fitted with Explosive Devices: Lessons of the Past

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    On August 22nd, the enemy carefully fitted the 200 UAVs each with a complex explosive device. The device was programmed to explode after 23 minutes and were specially designed with shrapnel charges. Some unconfirmed sources suggest that some of the explosive charges were command detonated on a signal from the ground.  They then launched the UAVs into the sky, programmed to fly over the target city. Below the citizens were oblivious, enjoying a festival in the streets until the strange and unusual objects were spotted in the sky. Press reporting told of “extreme terror” of the citizens in the target city.

    Is this a science fiction story, or a modern threat from the ubiquitous drone we read about daily in the press?  In fact this true story is from 1849, the Austrian siege of Venice: although admittedly the actual number of UAVs is unclear.  The UAVs were balloons, 18ft in diameter made from paper, but the attack was very real.  Each balloon carried a bomb, a pear-shaped vessel filled with gunpowder.   The designer, Austrian artillery officer Franz von Uchatius, was able to “program” the balloon flight by releasing smaller balloons which enabled him to calculate wind speed and direction. The bombs were dropped after 23 minutes by an ingenuous burning fuse mechanism.   One report suggests that at least one of the devices was initiated by a long electrical cable back to the Austrian launch point.

    For what it’s worth, the attack was largely unsuccessful and did not get much attention internationally.  But, it was certainly a UAV attack by most of the definitions used today.

    At D13 we are designing innovative countermeasures to the modern drone, recognizing without hyperbole the real security threat that UAVs might pose across society and also recognizing that UAV technology is here to stay and has many positive applications too.  Our sophisticated technology is able to carefully manage a threat drone without affecting others, and operate in such a way as to ensure that the drone is automatically landed safely in a place of our own choosing, rather than shot down or “jammed” to fall out of control onto the population below. We can also deal with swarms!

    In future blogs I’ll write about the 9,000 Japanese UAVs launched against the US in WW2 - at D13 although we work at the cutting edge of modern science we always know there are lessons to be learned from history.