A drone is not a robot !!! Let me repeat this again A DRONE IS NOT A ROBOT !! Yet these things are in the press as the cutting edge of robotic technology. Over the years I know the press has the flavour of the month mentality and all the no nothings get all excited by such stories. All this type of nonsense will last about a nanosecond. For those that do not know, this is a very, very, very brief amount of time. Oh yes they are giving us pictures from above, they are spying on those guys in the black hats, and they are going to deliver our goods.
To me it sounds like a lot of baloney. Let me know go through my thoughts about this subject. First let me state like I often do that I owe much of my thinking about what a robot is to David Heiserman. I learned how to truly build robots by reading his books. To anyone who has not I recommend them without any reservation, In these days of arduino and C-language they may seem old but I believe one must learn to crawl, then walk. A great deal of what he wrote is still applicable today. Robot builders of this century owe a great deal to the robot pioneers of the last century and we should never forget what they have taught us. His most revolutionary concepts were to question and the answer what a true robot could be.This short note is not that place to give it the attention it richly deserves, and I will make it the subject of a future blog. I love to write about robots !! His idea was that true robots must have autonomy. The capability to give his creations the chance to decide for itself what to do. To structure the program and the physical artifact in such a way, that after it has helped the humans that are around, it does what it wants to do.
I have yet to see any robotic creation come close to his vision. Yes I know the reason people make robots as little slave machines and that is so limiting. Imagine, a useful tool in all robot builders tool box, that someone told you what you can and cannot do. In this century as humans we have a lot of problems that we are trying to solve. Sadly we still have the social problems of the last to deal with and this takes so much valuable time and energy away from the creation of a much better future. Today you see it everywhere, robots made to be slaves to mankind so that the great expense and even greater trouble to build them is justified. Why spend a small fortune and a great deal of time, blood , sweat and even tears to give your robot autonomy. Gee a robot has got to do something useful for his master. What a load of idiotic thinking.
I have read articles that cannot break out of this way of conceptualizing. I realize that building and paying for this building is expensive. Let us face it that there are no altruistic funding sources. They want something for their cash. How last century is that kind of thought pattern. Let a pair of robots express how I feel.
Drones from the most sophisticated to the very cheap are controlled by remote. This disqualifies them from being robots. They are essentially cameras that fly. The military ones stay afloat for longer times but they are still controlled by a human. Those cute pictures and videos are taken by someone pressing a button. An all too human operator will drop your breakable electronics order from a great height in front of your door. Sure drones can deliver stuff but they are afflicted by something that has not progressed as far as some us had hoped. Anyone who has built a machine that runs on batteries sees the problem. Robots today still need the rechargable batteries and this is a serious situation. One big problem with building robots is the power needed to run the electronics, cpu and motors. Any one who has built even the simplest robot will know that well over 50% of the overall weight is usually the battery. To make matters worse the length of time that this battery can function with adequate current is all to brief.
Let us consider those so called delivery drones. They usually have four motors connected to the rotors. As they lift off with their payload they are using a lot of energy. As they get airborne they have the weight of the package and themselves so the energy consumption is greater still. Every maneuver, up ,down, left or right uses more juice. With the batteries that exist today they will not carry enough juice to go very far, and so the package they carry will have to be very, very, tiny. If you want to carry a bigger package you will need bigger motors and a bigger battery. I could go on but you can see where I am heading with all of this, this flavour of the week technology is not going to work unless we improve the batteries.
Ah you may be thinking what about those big fella drones used by the military. Now I am aware of them as most people are, but I do not have a great deal of information about them more then what the defense departments of the world release. I know that DARPA funds a lot of robotic research in the United States. And according to my Golden Rule, he who has the gold makes the rules. Their objective is to keep and extend the capability of the armed forces and not jeopardize human lives. It is worthwhile in the sense you are saving precious lives. However it is at the very same time horribly wrong since they may use the children of our collective genius, robots, to hurt others. Using robots to kill is just plain wrong. Since the decision and execution of the killing order is done by humans the blame cannot be given to the slave machine, tethered and controlled by us. How sad when they cannot see the vision of the future where these robots could be used for so many better objectives.
I have written before and will continue to write this one thing that I see always before my mind's eye. Robots should and could be used to help mankind make it up the hill of survival. They can , if they so desire, help us light up the darkness of our ignorance. They can help us survive and thrive. However this can only be achieved if we use and guide them properly. As humans we are so lucky to live on such a bountiful planet. Alas witness what we have done to our poor Mother Earth. We have poisoned the air and the sea, killing the other species that cohabit our world. We play with nuclear waste that has the potential of killing everything . Sadly as stewards of life we have failed but it is not too late to walk away from the brink of extinction. With our , good , dear friends the robots we could change all that now. The analogy that comes to mind is that of a plant. Depending on the seed and the place it is planted and if it is tended and nurtured correctly it can grow into a beautiful flower. What kind of seed are we planting ??