DARPA wants airborne aircraft carriers. The airborne aircraft carriers would be a platform for drones. Radley has suggested airships be used to act as a catchment for solar energy beamed from solar satellites in space. The power would then be transferred from the airship to the Earth. How about beaming power to the airship which is used by the airship! The airship can use this collected power to stay aloft, for propulsion and to power up sensors as well as command and control equipment. DARPA has already done the conceptual work of making an airship a giant sensor.
The power collected could be used not only to power the airship but to recharge the drones the airship services. Microdrones acting in swarms would need to be battery powered anyway and would give the US military another type of drone capability to supplement our current larger drones. Since power is available to stay aloft then the airship can be much smaller than a normal airship that requires more helium to stay afloat. A smaller airship provides a smaller target and is therefore less vulnerable to enemy missiles. The microdrones could also be used to act as a missile defense system. The drone(s) intercepts the missile and explodes in the proximity of the missile. The microdrones used as a defensive system ironically mimic the behavior of actual bee drones!
The airship’s sensor system can be used for two types of targeting. The sensor can be used to aim microdrones at targets on the ground that are of interest for further observation. Microdrones with explosives can be use for exact target elimination. The US already has redundant airpower that is powerful but has the political problem of collateral damage. Current US power is excellent for military purposes but not as capable for “police” actions. What the US lacks is some sort of automated system that can bring more or less the target elimination capabilities of an infantry soldier from the sky and this is what cheap disposable microdrones can provide. Infantry of course has the disadvantages of the loss of life among US soldiers and dealing with the complex political machinations of putting boots on the ground. The airship’s sensor system can also be used in conjunction with microdrones to provide target information that the solar satellite can use to target its solar beam. However, a death ray from above is not really what the US needs. The US has a plethora of very powerful weapons that can deliver death from above but lack the accuracy needed for police type missions abroad. The US has cruise missiles, huge bombers, bunker busters and even nuclear weapons.
What the US does not have is the ability to take out a single tank or even a single soldier surrounded by civilians. Since one of the new threats is terrorists that use civilian populations as human shields, an exact targeting system and target delivery system from above allows attacks on terrorists in situations in which infantry was the only option in the past. Drones working alone or in conjunction can provide optics that focus the solar beam from space to ground targets.
The laser drone would be a specialized drone that is torus shaped and has some sort of lens or energy field in the center that can take the solar beam from a satellite and aim incredible power at a very small target. A laser drone could conceivably provide laser capability that can kill a single terrorist who thinks he is safe under tons of rock in a cave but is suddenly killed in front of his men! Bombing caves may even create camaraderie but seeing your fearless leader killed in front of you in your sanctuary may be more effective when dealing with tribal groups that cluster around charismatic leaders!
The laser drone and microdrones with explosives would be used together and have an order of battle. The laser drone creates the opening and the microdrones with explosives then go through the opening. This means the drones with explosives can go into areas underground or in bunkers that would be very difficult for an infantry solider to breach. In the short run, observation microdrones would be the first area of research and development. The observation microdrones could be the size of insects and be barely visible. When the observation microdrone finds a target then that microdrone calls in the explosive microdrone that would be much larger, perhaps around four feet in diameter, and quite visible. Explosive microdrones with explosives would be the next area of research and development after observation microdrones that aid infantry have been perfected. Drones with solar energy focusing capability, which would probably be quite large, would be the final type of drone developed. There might even be a piggy back battery powering system. The satellite powers the airship. The airship powers the explosive microdrones. The explosive microdrones power the observation drones. The US does not need a death ray from space but precise target elimination from above is preferable to invasion in many terrorist scenarios. A laser drone for underground targets and an exploding microdrone for targets above ground may be the missing element in the US spectrum of military options!