Monday, May 14, 2018

Installment 4.12: Drones

Auggie Ybarra walked into the morning war-room meeting five minutes late.  The crowd around the table parted as they saw who he was.  He walked up to the table and unceremoniously placed a very large, black, plastic garbage bag in the center.  Whatever was in the bag was bulky, angular and light in weight.

“I need to have the technical people move up to the table.  Everybody else, step back.” Ybarra announced.

Dilip was one of the few technical people in the room.

Ybarra opened the bag and slid the contents onto the top of the table.  It looked like kite with gimbaled rotors in the four corners.  The surface of the kite appeared to be a stiff, plastic membrane and it was stayed into a complex set of curves with a multitude of arched ribs that were the thickness of bicycle spokes.  The membrane was dark blue on top and white on the bottom.

“What is it?” one of the people behind the techies asked.

“It is one of the drones that Cali deployed against our defenders.” Ybarra responded.

“How did we get it?” Dilip asked.

“A farmer found it in a hayfield fifteen miles east of I-5.  We think it got caught in a thermal after we sniped one of the passengers in a command-and-control Hummer.” Ybarra said.

McDevitt cocked an eyebrow indicating a question.

Ybarra continued, “We have been harassing the columns by placing snipers along their route.  Generally they get one shot a day.  If they try more than one shot they get pinned down and destroyed.  And, since we have been focusing on taking out their drone handlers, the handlers hate them like poison.”

“We think it was caught in a thermal because that is how they are able to keep them aloft all day.  At least we think that is how they are doing it.”
Dilip picked up the drone and gently turned it over.  Then he minutely inspected the ribs and the membrane.

Dilip tapped a rib and listened.  “Carbon fiber?” he asked.

“Probably.” Ybarra said.

Dilip gently rubbed the membrane of the sail between his thumb and forefinger.

“You missed something.” he said.

“What’s that.” Ybarra asked.

“The sail is a solar cell.  It feels like amorphous silicon on Mylar film.  My guess is that they vac-formed the sail and then used vapor deposition for the silicon.”  Dilip said.  Some of Dilip’s friends in grad school had esoteric interests.

“That would certainly explain why they don’t sally forth on rainy days and why we can go toe-to-toe with them at night.” Ybarra said.

“I don’t see how that helps us.  If anything it makes them seem more formidable.” one of the logistics people commented.

“Actually, it does.  It tells exactly how to go after them.” Dilip said.

“Enlighten us.” McDevitt said.

“That entire sail, all four square feet of it, functions as an antenna because of the grid of wires embedded within it.” Dilip said as he turned the drone upside down and gently stroked the skin.  “That makes it exquisitely sensitive to EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) weapons.”

“Stop using jargon.” the logistics person said irritably.  “Use language normal people understand.”
Dilip nodded agreeably.  “Ok.  Have you ever dropped your phone into a puddle of water?”

The logistics officer nodded “Yes.” as nearly everybody in the group subconsciously nodded in agreement.

“Did you dry it off in a microwave oven?” Dilip asked.

“Hell no!” the officer responded.

“Why not?” Dilip asked.

“Because it would explode or catch fire.  At the very least it would fry the chips inside the case.” The logistics officer responded.

Dilip nodded.  “That is the correct answer.  The other thing to keep in mind is that the ‘antenna’ on this drone is about a million times larger than the antenna on your phone and will pick up that much more energy.  Otherwise, same-same.”

Ybarra looked over at the logistics expert.  “I think you need to rustle up some EMP weapons.”

Next installment

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