Wired highlights the need for an answer to the fourth challenge: identifying whether people are men, women, and children, or more specifically, combatants or non-combatants. Wired cites a recent U.S. drone attack on civilians in Afghanistan, a non-dangerous group that included children, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
So if the problem is real, why is the Air Force offering only $20,000 to solve it? Probably because right now it’s a problem that is so hard, the Air Force is just hoping for ideas.
Once it has a few that sound plausible it will take it to the Lockheeds and Northrops and Raytheons of the world to build out. Check back next year and there might be a $1 million challenge or a $10 million challenge — but that might be for a demonstration system a little more complicated than what you can build on your new Commodore 64.
The White House release states that this is only the latest in the Obama administration's efforts to provide prizes to spur innovation. Among the other programs are NASA's series of science challenges. All of these initiatives can be found at www.challenge.gov.
♦ Photo from Air Force Research Laboratory