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August 30, 2006


Mark Moore

Even drones as small as rc model planes could wreak devastation against fixed point targets, whether they were people gathering points or system point nodes.

Michael Tanji

If I am not mistaken an engineer in New Zealand was going to build a backyard cruise missile about two years ago. Part of a rash of 'it's easy for terrorists to . . .' ideas being bantered about. Methinks we're already there and just don't know it yet . . .

Robert Cassidy

That was my observation as well when I was helping my son program his mindstorms. In terms of software, it was a relatively short trip to turn this into a Katyusha rocket controller.

Just a GPS unit and a handful of cheap sensors. Off the shelf GPS and accelerometer silicon is pretty cheap no and going to be extremely cheap in the future. You can get all the data you need for navigation (target coordinates and altitude, obstacles on the path, etc.) right out of Google Earth. Oddly, the biggest burden is the old-school propulsion and explosives.


That's where rapid prototying and fabbers come in. Once they've advanced to the point where you can print the components you need from open sourced blueprints, the old school propulsion at least stops being such a burden.


In principle propulsion is not the main problem.A pulsejet is easy to manufacture and piston engines for propellor driven models would be available off the shelf. Not as good as dedicated turbojet powerplants but they will suffice.
The problem is still guidance.GPS is a neat solution, except for the small detail that the signal available to civilians can be degraded at US whim in any area they choose to do so.Pure inertial for any cruise missile with decent range is not worth much, the error builds up too much due to the long flight times.
Real cruise missiles aimed at ground targets (antiship ones are an other history)) rely on a combination of guidance systems with the most important being terrain scanning systems.Not cheap.


MIT's Technology Review has an interesting article that addresses some of this, though the article only addresses state players and manufactured cruise missiles and not non-state players with handbuilt or small scale factory builds.

Executive summary: There are about 75 countries with cruise missiles, and about 130 types of cruise missiles.


It does mention the Iranian developments in guided antiship missiles. That's what Hezballah used against the Israeli patrol boat.

The homebuilders in both RC airplanes and rocketry have well developed techniques and methods, at least in the U.S. I suspect any respectable group of undergrad upper division engineering students these days could come up with something effective within several months.

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