Drone Fighter Program

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Drone Fighter Program

Postby jagsthepanda » Sun Apr 06, 2014 2:14 pm

Starfleet Drone Fighter Program

<b>Falcon Prototype Fighter Drone</b>

Dimensions
Length: 2.5 Meters
Width: 1 Meters
Height: 2.5 Meters

Armament
Micro Torpedoes
Micro Torpedo Launcher: 1
Micro-Quantum Torpedoes: 10
Phasers:
Type U+ Micro-Pulse: 4

Maximum Effective Range: 100,000 Kilometers

Background:

The Dominion War showed Starfleet the devastating effect that smaller auxiliary fighters could have on a traditional capital ship and escort ship fleet. With plenty of casualties reinforcing the point, Starfleet began deployment of starfighters such as the venerable Peregrine class. With advancing technology Starfleet developed and produced new models, each designed to address a specific role in combat. However, despite the development of two man and later one man fighters, there was always the concern of the risk these daring pilots took while in a dogfight. To this end, Starfleet assigned a special team of engineers and designers to work on a prototype for testing.

The first stage of design was for the piloting modules. Since pilots were used to be in the cockpit, a new design had to be designed to allow a pilot quick access to controls and important data. With pilots unable to ‘feel’ the effects of piloting their strike craft, the engineers felt that a first person view from the perspective of the craft would be more beneficial. Since pilots would be commanding their drones from the ships they were launched from, they had to fit within the confines of existing ship structures. The solution was simple; a helmet with attached command chair would serve as the pilot’s cockpit. The view and sensors seen within the HUD of the helmet would allow the pilot unparalleled access to the sensors and data streaming in from all around him. The perspective from the nose of the strike craft allowed the pilots unfettered view of their targets.

The new cockpit was tested on a Razor fighter modified to accept the new control input. The results from pilot testers was impressive as they reported increased responsiveness and much larger reduction of fatigue from prolonged use.

The first prototype was nicknamed the Hornet for its small size and quick maneuverability. The design was simple. Because the drones were to be small, smaller than even a razor interceptor, they would provide a nearly impossible target to track. The drones thus were built without armor or shielding. Instead, the drones were built around a fusion core. With a centrally placed micro-quantum torpedo launcher and magazine, the Hornet also sported two forward facing type U+ micro Pulse cannons on the ventral and dorsal surfaces of the drone.

Initial testing of the Hornet yielded promising results. The lightweight chassis, freed of the ablative armor and shield systems was extremely maneuverable and fast. The only major flaw of the Hornet was that its weapons payload coupled with the small reactor made it unsuitable for prolonged engagements. Though the drone could ram an enemy unit and act as a torpedo, the engineers felt that the drone’s ability to perform in prolonged engagements was preferred to.

Designs on the second drone began in earnest, with the lessons learned from the Hornet, the engineers began working on a much larger and hopefully more effective drone. Deciding to use a matter/antimatter core, the power output of the core was more than enough to power the engines and allowed the engineers to add two additional type U+ micro pulse phasers. The chassis was redesigned to accommodate the two additional phasers and thus the final shape came out to be an octagonal tube with the micro-torpedo launcher set dead center of the drone. Maneuvering thrusters were set along each of the sides to allow for maneuvers tighter than those that could be performed by a pilot relying on a intertal dampener.

Nicknamed the Falcon, the new drone was put though a multitude of tests against various fighters already in service in the Federation. The Falcon performed excellently, though only slightly better than the already deployed Peregrines, Razors, and Vipers. The one variable that got the attention of those in attendance was the fact that while the destruction of one drone could be replaced with another, the destruction of a fighter and its pilot meant years of training on top of the fighter’s replacement. The Falcon had proved itself effective not only as an auxiliary fighter, but also as a means to reduce the amount of lives lost in combat situations.

Notes: Originally when I envisioned this technology, it was meant for ships with limited space. I was trying to figure out exactly how I'd fit a matter/anti-matter reactor into the drone. As far as taking pilots out of the equation, I was thinking perhaps it'll fit on the smaller of the ships we have in fleet. A fighter option for captains who can't fit large fighters in effective quantities. Also rather than have it totally automated I was hoping for a pilot player to guide the fighters on an individual basis. The reasoning I came up with is because some of our fighters have a two pilot system that for tactical weapons and piloting. This would reduce the manpower required per fighter and increase the overall numbers that could be put in space to deal with a threat.

I recognize that people like to write as pilots, (being one myself) however I do notice a distinct lack of people signing up to be pilots these days. Thus the creation of this tech was meant to allow for a bit more flexibility for COs to have a carrier/fighter launch capable starship and still have effective auxiliary craft at their disposal.

The initial design of the drone was a fighter built around a central torpedo launcher with the type U+ placed around it. I'm not sure how I'd incorporate an additional launcher and still maintain the small size that would allow for a ship to stock up on them in large quantities. Partly because I envision the drones being turned into torpedoes when all other weapon options are exhausted. Due to their reactor they'd be a decent weapon just by virtue of ramming. But still, I'm open to options that might flesh out this tech.
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby Seoulless » Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:36 am

I'll chime in here, since I'm rather bored at the moment. I haven't been with the RnD team for long, but looking at your design, I have a few thoughts.

Strictly from a design standpoint, I don't believe that the size fits the equipment you've put on it. By giving it an M/AR reactor, you now have to take into consideration fuel (deuterium/anti-deuterium) tanks for the reactor. These would take up space within the framework. Space craft need to have armor and/or shielding. Traveling at the speeds that combat occurs at, without one or the other the craft would get shredded by even the smallest pieces of interstellar debris. Plus, how are all of your internal electronics protected from interstellar radiation?

I'm not sure how effective Drone technology would be. Primarily because (as it has so often been seen in the shows and movies) it seems awfully easy to 'jam' communications and sensors. Plus what sort of safe guards would be put into place to keep the drone from being taken over and used against Federation ships?

Introducing a drone craft is an interesting thought. However, I do feel that it shouldn't be that much smaller than the Razor fighter craft that is already listed as that seems to be the smallest size that current miniaturization technology has achieved so far.

Also do you have an image for what this thing might look like?

Just my two cents though.
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby jagsthepanda » Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:56 am

Hey there! Thanks for the reply. This design initially was based on the flighthawk idea from a novel I was reading. Though the size of the ship might be off, I'm perfectly up for editing and improving it so that the design works better.

So let's talk modifications to the design.

The m/am reaction decision was used purely because I wanted the ship to have a secondary function, that of becoming a photon torpedo like projectile when the situation warranted it. I looked at the razor and a few things came to me. First off, unless specified otherwise, the razor would require a lifesupport system as well as an area for the pilot to sit. This takes additional space as does the fact that the razor is a warp capable fighter. readding shields or armor to the drone seems right to me, but since I'm wanting the drones to specifically be an in close ship defense system I decided against warp capability.

I'm still deciding between a fusion based engine since the drone is impulse only. The problems I have with it are, 1. the fighter no longer has a secondary purpose as a warhead. 2. the less efficient fusion engine would mean that the drone's total power output would be lower.

if we eliminate the cockpit and warp capability and leave the shields and armor, then i think you could further shrink the size of the razor down from the 6 meter length. The computer on the drones is single minded and not as nearly complex as the computer aboard a starship. also, depending on a fusion engine or m/am reactor, we could continue to downsize and even adjust it so that the drone remains a small size.

I have zero skills in terms of drawing and 3d modeling though I wish I had them.

Thanks for the thoughts! Let me know!
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Drone Fighter Program

Postby Williams » Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:50 pm

Seems a rather expensive and complex bit of kit for the federation to have it specifically designed to be used as a throw-away torpedo, doesn't it? I can see that secondary use coming into play in a desperate situation, when it's the last resort and the ever resourceful engineer figures out a way of making it work, but it seems a little wasteful to design it to be a warhead to me.

Also, would the drone not need either a highly sophisticated computer, or some sort of real-time link with an operator on its host ship? Reason I bring it up, is that many shows/movies make reference to there being no way a computer can match the unpredictability of human(oid) pilots. So that may also need to be taken into the size and configuration considerations
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby Seoulless » Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:42 am

Treknology speaking, the typical sublight propulsion system used by the Federation is based on a fusion reactor/space-time driver coil/vectored exhaust system. The M/ARA (Matter/Antimatter Reactor Assembly) is for powering warp drives. Using an M/ARA for a drone wouldn't guarantee that ramming the drone into another ship would cause an explosion on the levels of a photon torpedo because M/ARA cores are not designed to detonate for maximum yield, how big the explosion would be would be purely random based on how much deuterium/anti-deuterium was in the core at the time of explosion and how they collide with each other. Photon torpedoes are designed specifically for maximum yield using containment and injection methods that guarantee rapid total annihilation of the matter/anti-matter.

The detonation from one (or more) fusion reactors would still cause a lot of damage. Even if the drone were to explode with the equivalent firepower of a photon torpedo, take in to consideration that in its day, a refitted Constitution-class ship could take 90 photon torpedo hits before losing its shields. Shield technology and torpedo technology has increased since then but I would wager that a Galaxy-class ship could take at least 12-15 torpedo hits before losing its shields. And those are going to be full sized torpedoes, not micro-torpedoes whose destructive yields are much smaller.

Pulse cannon take up more internal space than normal phaser arrays because you are including the capacitors that store the built up energy that allows for the 'pulse' reaction.

Removing the warp capabilities from the drone might give you 1.5 meters total in width because the warp coils are in the nacelles. I don't think you would gain that much of a space saving by removing the cockpit (which in my opinion includes the life support) because you would be filling that space with additional fusion generators and capacitors.

The maximum effective range you have listed is 100,000 km which is one-third the distance that a phaser array can fire, that implies that you are utilizing some other form of network communications. Your computer is not going to be that much more simple than a standard computer core because I'm sure you are going to need to have security software, remote control software, redundant control systems programming, and emergency failover programming in case remote control communication is lost and the drone can no longer be piloted remotely.

A custom communications system might be a good explanation for a unique software/hardware security package that would make it harder to jam/override.

Personally with everything that you've packed into it, I would say your still looking at a 4m x 3m x 2m standard dimension. You could make it narrower if you wanted but then you would need to make it longer or taller to compensate for the required space. Or any other dimension adjustment as long as you have the same overall internal space.

Just my two-cents still. I'm not the one in charge though. Alexandra is the head of RnD so I'd also want to hear her thoughts.
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby jagsthepanda » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:37 pm

This is great, I love the feedback on the design. When i initially designed this drone idea I was just fooling around with dimensions and what not. This is quite helpful :D :D :D

When I designed this, I was hoping for something smaller than a fighter. As per my notes I wanted this to be usable in a smaller vessel that didn't have the shuttle bay capacity to fit full sized fighters in. In terms of the expense for designing and building expendable drones, I view the cost of training a pilot in a cockpit to be a far larger strain on Federation resources than a swarm of drones used to slam into an enemy ship. :)

In terms of the power plant, I'm quite flexible and the fusion reactors make sense. If needed there could be a downsizing to the number of pulse phasers in order to conserve space. As for the computer and communications system as well as the maximum range, I wasn't too clear on the engagement range of the phaser arrays simply because they come in so close in most trek battles. One of the primary inspirations for the use of these drones was the destruction of the USS Odyssey in DS9. Though they had piloted runabouts as auxiliary craft, the lack of a full fighter screen closer to the capital ship seems like a glaring weakness. As for the computer system, I'm really not intending it to take over for a pilot unless necessary. In terms of having a computer mimic human behavior, you have data as an example of human behavior as well as capability to learn all packed into the size of an average man. While I'm not sure, I'd think we could microsize some sort of AI to take over should the drone go out of maximum range. I like the idea of a custom made communications suite to prevent hacking and also allow some of the computing to be done on the ship's computer. It would make it more feasible for deployment in engagements I think.
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby Seoulless » Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:35 pm

The only problem with using Data as an example is that no one else has been able to replicate Noonien Soong's work. So using that technology probably isn't viable. And to be honest after the troubles that Lor caused I think the Federation would be a bit leery of creating an AI that controls a military craft.

If you wanted to shrink the size of the drone further, the first thing I would suggest is reducing its phaser armaments. With 4 micro pulse phasers it is more heavily armed than the Razor and Scorpion MkII here in PF which both only have 2 micro pulse phasers. And to be honest for the initial size you posted this at, it would be hard to convince me that you could mount a micro pulse phaser, impulse drives, fusion reactors, maneuver drives and computers into 2.5m x 1m x 2.5m frame. Honestly any ship that carries a Class 6 shuttle has room for a Razor fighter craft.

If I were to design a drone of that size I would forgo the phasers all together and just mount the single micro torpedo launcher on it since the launcher and the torpedoes are very compact and can actually fit within those dimensions. It would not have the range or maneuverability of a full fledge fighter craft so as to keep the cost down. I wouldn't give it shields but a magnetized armor plating system like what the NX Enterprise had which should be enough to protect it from interstellar debris. A swarm of them might be able to take on a single or a pair of fighter craft but their advantage would be numbers (which means drastically reducing the cost) and their disposability.

To me what you've initially designed (dimensions not withstanding) is a complete drone fighter. All the advantages of a full fledge fighter craft but none of the disadvantages (i.e. cost and size). Our current drone technology isn't even designed to replace our modern fighter craft. They are maneuverable but limited in range and how much they can carry (which is a downside to their size).

Again this is just my opinion and I'd want to hear what Alexandra has to say.
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby Alex » Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:32 pm

Hi all. I'm sorry for taking so long to weigh in. I think most of my main concerns have been addressed already. I agree completely that the full complement of equipment is much too large for the frame. Remember that 2.5 meters is not much, about 8 ft. The proportions seem a little odd compared to typical human aspect ratios. I know that they operate in space, so shape is not really an issue, but it seems odd that is as tall as it is long, but very narrow. It's a big contrast to the Razors and Peregrines that are arranged more like a contemporary fighter. But aspect ratio aside, that is a lot of equipment. Don't forget that you'll also need an RCS system to maneuver. Just having the one engine is not enough. Spacecraft don't work like aircraft. RCS thrusters are your control surfaces, and those will take up space too. Also, don't forget fuel stores. Even a fusion reactor is going to need some sort of fuel to burn. A M/ARA still uses fuel. It's just not commented on much on the shows. They run on deuterium and I assume anti-deuterium. The fuel cells likely wouldn't need to be that large since it would likely have a pretty efficient engine, and little mass to move, but there would still need to be something.

I also agree that you'll need to have some sort of deflector system. Like Seoulless (I think) said, moving at high speeds, even at impulse, will put the craft at risk of hitting debris. Especially in battle, where the chances of debris floating around would be much higher. One speck of paint could rip right through the hull if it's moving fast enough. Granted, losing life support is not a concern, but that speck of paint could hit a fuel cell and start a fire.

As far as weapons go, I would still prefer to see some sort of phaser system. Real life fighters went through a phase where guided missiles were coming into vogue and pilots were no longer trained how to dogfight. American F-4s were initially not equipped with guns, but were losing in dogfights to MiGs that were too close for missiles. Later versions of the F-4 had a gun. If the idea is that this fighter would serve to essentially replace the manned fighters (and not just complement them) then it would probably be good for them to have a phaser. However, maybe an array would be better than a pulse. There might be more power in one pulse than there is in a beam, but they have a wider effective range and can fire in directions other than the direction of travel. They may also take up less internal space since they wouldn't need the heavy capacitors.

I also agree that an AI is probably, if not a bad idea, but an unlikely prospect. Soong-type androids have never been built by anyone else. Even Data couldn't create a sustained system. Lal had her own problems. Other experiences with AI seemed to be accidental. V'ger wasn't created that way, and even the Doctor from Voyager was a happy accident. It would be difficult for Starfleet to recreate that.

Now I do think the idea of a drone fighter is really intriguing. I love the idea, but maybe not so much as a replacement for manned fighters, but as a complement. They could be used for support initially, serving as backup to the manned fighters, or for sending them into situations too dangerous for people. I would think that a good size/compliment ratio of drone to fighter would be 2:1 or 3:1. Any smaller might be too small, and any larger defeats the purpose.
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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby Blackcat » Sun May 04, 2014 12:46 pm

While I realize that you've put a lot of work into this thing, and on paper it sounds good, the fact that as we develop our communications technology to be jam resistant, the ability of jamming devices almost always outstrips the ability of the prevention measures.

Now take into account what we are all about. The story. The ability of individuals to overcome adversity through strength, intelligence, agility. The best stories are based on these everyman principles. The ideas of personal risk, being out there in that fighter with thin shields and metal separating us from the cold vacuum of space, from enemy fire. The dramatic elements of a dog fight where the pilot's life is on the line are what makes fighters a workable thing in our stories and these drones just take that away.

We outright reject applications that are super hero syndrome based or even have a touch too much Mary Sue within them. We demand balance from the players, and we should expect the same from the technology. I could see surveillance drones, which would need to be stealth to prevent them being detected, because if they would be detected, they'd be jammed. But for the mission critical communications required of a fighter, it would be arrogant of us to assume that once deployed, the enemy wouldn't turn on the jamming and render the fighters dead in the water.

Even IF the jamming issues could be solved, there is still the lag issue. The time it takes the sensors to take readings, convert them into a digital form, sent the telemetry back to the host ship, the time for the host ship to read that digital burst and convert it back into a usable form for the flight simulator that the pilot is in, then take the pilot's response into digital form, send it back to the drone for the drone to apply to the controls... All those extra steps is going to add crucial extra seconds onto response times. The pilot's edge will be gone.

Then there's the theory that under stress, the best pilots have a slight form of precognition, that they get a feel for what's going to happen a fraction of a second before it does. With drones there may be frustration, but no real danger, the precognition is never triggered and again the pilot never can reach their full potential.

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Re: Drone Fighter Program

Postby jagsthepanda » Tue May 06, 2014 5:16 pm

As a pilot in a different fleet I can totally understand the idea that having the ability to have dramatic events in the cockpit does make sense. In regards to the multitude of points brought up, I'd like to propose a slight redesign and mission designation.

Rather than have the drones replace fighters, which was really not the full intent, and also taking into account the idea that the drones are complements to fighters I'd like to throw out two ideas.

The first, is to have the drones as sort of a defensive backup for the fighter itself. Their programming is to assist the fighter and provide additional fire support to targets designated by the fighter but also provide defensive fire in dogfights. This would make them subject to a small operating distance as they'd be tied to the fighter and follow preprogrammed commands in their duties. Forgive me if this sounds odd, but I'm taking the idea from the funnels that they show in the Gundam animes. While I'm not touting an overly powerful design, I'm suggesting that they are as vulnerable to attack as any other, targetable and thus destroyable. However it might give the fighters an additional kick. This addition would come in the form of a specific loadout that the fighters would need to be outfitted with.

The second idea was to have the drones as simply point defense for the ship itself. Carriers are vulnerable when their fighters are sent out in prolonged dogfight and even ships not designated as carriers would benefit from having these smaller phaser wielding drones providing a small picket screen. I look to the Jem'Hadar ship ramming the Odyssey as example, perhaps they could have stopped the odyssey's destruction, perhaps not, but the mother ship would still have them there to provide firesupport and if needed interception to protect the greater vessel.

In regards to the jamming idea, as I stated earlier, we could have them preprogrammed to follow specific combat protocals so that the needed input from the vessel was limited only to the deployment or retrieval of the drones.

Any new ideas are welcome as I like discussing this.
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