In the race among military researchers to out-freak civilized society, please consider one of the Air Force Research Laboratory's latest submissions. Researchers there are dreaming up a concept where swarms of mini unmanned aircraft infiltrate ventilation systems, perch somewhere or morph into the scenery and await the opportunity to personally deliver their one-pound explosive.
For all you science fiction fans, think of the heat-seeking bullets and personalized attack robots from the 1984 movie Runaway. In fact, that's how Air Force Col. Kloeppel described it to the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's air launched weapons conference Sept. 25.
To be sure, the quest for micro air vehicles is not new and AFRL's micro munitions concept could help satisfy what defense officials have been complaining about for years: a dearth of conventional weapons systems against hardened or deeply buried targets like command-and-control bunkers or nuclear or chembio weapons facilities.
These "smart submunitions" would be self-guided, without GPS, and could morph their structures to both blend into their environments and take advantage of the power and aerodynamic benefits exhibited by bird wings. Researchers apparently have found that a pound of explosive material can provide a surprisingly effective result, but they also envision dozens of these mini-UAVs congregating inside a bunker or building to deliver a bigger blast.
Still, don't worry, these mini armed drones will not be coming out of a vent near you any time soon. AFRL is supposed to look a decade or two into the future and such "out-of-the-box-out-of-the-box" concepts - others include ball lightning and antimatter weapons - will follow nearer-term efforts like the Dominator UAV.
That unmanned aircraft, dropped from a bomber, would parachute into an area of interest and then fly around for 24 hours while shooting off skeet-like submunitions before flinging itself into a target for a bigger blast.