A dozen types of drones are patrolling the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq. But because most of them run on different software, it's tough to get the robot planes to work together -- or to port one machine's advances to another drone.That's why the Pentagon's way-out research branch, Darpa, has been working on a common operating system (COS) for the next generation of killer drones. The "first components" of that software were delivered last month, according to the agency.The COS "is not like UNIX, LINUX, or any of the available embedded operating systems," Darpa says. "It does not manage and control resources such as hard drives, network cards, and keyboards as one would expect of these typical operating systems."What the COS is supposed to do, eventually, is let the drones pass information back and forth between each other, with operators on the ground, and with manned airplanes in the sky. If all goes according to plan, the system will tie together the drones' sensors, giving the robots a single picture of a warzone. It will manage the aircraft's weapons array. It will make recommendations on when to fire. And it will manage the "balance between autonomy and human interaction" in each mission.In other words, it's pretty damn important. No operating system, no robot war.
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