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Air Force looks to use tiny drones to track targets by ‘painting’ them

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The U.S. Air Force want to step up the pressure in conflicts around the globe by employing a whole new way of tracking the enemy.

The Air Force is looking to introduce a tiny drone that surreptitiously ‘paints’ an individual with some kind of signal-emitting powder or liquid that allows the military to keep tabs on him or her.

They could even use the technology to upload the person’s whereabouts to a hellfire missile.

On Tuesday, the Air Force put out a call for proposals for such technology, though it didn’t specify exactly what kind of drone might deliver the magic powder, or what the magic powder might be.

There are a range of experimental technologies that could potentially serve both purposes.

Tiny insect drones, while not yet perfected, are gaining popularity in the military labs.
From larger hummingbird drones to other tiny ornithopters to DARPA’s remote-controlled beetle, the delivery system for such a technology isn’t so far away from being a reality.

What most of these tiny drones lack is range, which will evenutally improve with advances in battery life and materials science.

What’s less clear is how the tracking might go down, though the Pentagon is hard at work on a range of what they call “Clandestine Tagging, Tracking, and Locating” (TTL) technologies.

Some ideas from the Pentagon include marking targets with biological paints or micro-mechanical sensors, Fox News reports.

Similar proposals by outside groups are also being considered.

One proposal from a University of Florida researcher uses insect pheromones encoded with unique identifiers that could be tracked from miles away.

Other plans employ biodegradable fluorescent ‘taggants’ that can be scattered by UAVs.

A private firm in Oregon called Voxtel has already made available a product called NightMarks, a nano-crystal that can be seen through night-vision goggles and can be hidden in anything from glass cleaner to petroleum jelly.

DARPA is even looking into ‘smart dust’ – a cloud of dust that could be sprayed into the air near a target in hopes that he or she might walk through the cloud and be tagged, meaning the drone or delivery system wouldn’t even have to make direct contact with the target.

The Air Force notes that the technology it is fostering will be useful for things like tracking wildlife.

Via Air Force looks to use tiny drones to track targets by ‘painting’ them 

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Written by Nokgiir

May 5, 2011 at 12:28 am

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