Science & Health

Electromagnetic Interference Could Cause Aircraft Weapons To Fire Themselves

Increased radiation, global communications infrastructure, and lightning could be dangerous when combined with planes and drones designed to carry weaponry, according to the Defence Science and Technology Organisation — and ABC’s Catalyst recently visited its testing site to see what measures are put in place to avoid the worst.

The worst case scenario being a weapon that gets discharged without the pilot or drone controller giving the order — all thanks to the bombardment of our ever-growing wireless communications networks, as well as natural interference such as lightning.

Like the rest of the tech world, the machinery used to tell weapons what to do are getting smaller and smaller. And as they operate at smaller voltages, they become more vulnerable to electromagnetic interference.

According to Dr Andrew Walters of the DSTO:

The most hostile environment would be the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. There you’ve got the combination of aircraft landing, and an aircraft landing is when it’s in its most vulnerable position, it has a lot of its panels open and a lot of the wings are extended, and so those cables inside on which the energy can latch onto are exposed. You have that sort of scenario with lots of high-powered transmitters nearby.

To make sure our fighter craft are safe, Catalyst joins the science team as they put model aircraft through various testing procedures, including simulating both consistent currents and big bursts of electricity, and putting a plane in a giant microwave to test radiation.

It’s an especially important procedure for our new, oh-so-popular F-35 planes. Despite being named after the phenomenon, they still need to get clearance before they’re safe to fly around lightning.

You can stream or download the whole segment here.

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