Just when you thought that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs for short) being used in the battlefield is the next best thing since sliced bread, considering the ‘pilot’ needs not head out to the battlefield and risk his life, along comes the report of the first known friendly-fire deaths from a drone airstrike to dampen whatever enthusiasm you have. Well, the US military definitely wants to learn from this painful lesson, and is seeking for a way to have drones that are smart enough to be able to identify friend from foe, especially during the mad, chaotic scenes of war. One of the two ideas put forward by the U.S. Air Force would be an “optical tagging device” that is worn by all U.S. military members, making them visible only to near-infrared scopes or goggles. As for the other system, it would involve robotic drones identifying the location and direction of gunfire.
Needless to say, if the optical tags route were to be taken, it must be able to work passively — that is, sans power, and react with infrared-light wavelengths. In order to figure out a way to identify the wide range of shapes and cross sections that such tags will come in is a huge challenge in itself, not to mention the goal of such tags being tough enough to handle battlefield wear and tear, without costing more than $100 for each device. I’m now rather glad that the only headache I have is where my next meal is coming from, and not to solve a problem of that magnitude.
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