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Military Plots Robotic Internet

Scientists at UCLA are developing a network for the Pentagon that will consist of wirelessly linked robotic planes and terrestrial rovers ready to sweep across future battlefields
Scientists at UCLA are developing a network for the Pentagon that will consist of wirelessly linked robotic planes and terrestrial rovers ready to sweep across future battlefields. The planes and rovers will carry the network nodes of a moving Internet. In addition to military applications, the system could respond to natural disasters or man-made catastrophes, the researchers say.

The UCLA team is developing a simulator platform to test how system components such as sensors, robots, and helicopters work together. The copters will stand in for the unmanned planes envisioned. For now, the system uses Wi-Fi wireless LAN radio systems modified to work in unstructured environments with no fixed base stations.

EyewireThe battlefield system "is like having an Internet where the points are moving constantly," says Mario Gerla, a UCLA professor of computer science. That required the team to develop special network-addressing schemes to deal with the constant movement of those nodes.

The goal of the Multimedia Intelligent Network of Unattended Mobile Agents project (Minuteman) is to let the Navy deploy intelligent, networked sensing agents in battlefield conditions to gather intelligence and even carry out attacks using automated weapon systems. The system's airborne and terrestrial robots would be capable of scouring an area for enemies, transmitting video and other types of sensor data back to headquarters, and responding differently to changing battle conditions, Gerla says.

Minuteman's main characteristic is its ability to adjust to changes in the network and the environment. For instance, the network will adapt so it won't fail even if a few of the robots with network nodes are destroyed or captured, while individual robots are programmed to adjust their performance to shifting field conditions. Eventually, Gerla says, the network will use special military-band spread-spectrum radios that will transmit data at hundreds of megabits a second across distances as great as several kilometers.

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