Sat, Feb 27, 2021 at 4:38 AM
In response to your email I’m setting down my own (loose) thoughts on the subject. Forgive me if I ramble a bit and quite possibly parrot some of the same thoughts/ideas that you have already gone over.
Do these simple cargo haulers need that many drones? And how are they all used?
Are the sensor drones deployed out onto the cargo containers? I am assuming that a few of these would be deployed to the front, rear and sides of the cargo container(s) being towed so as to augment the view of surrounding space, especially since very large containers would interfere with the field of view of the ship’s own fixed sensor arrays. This would suggest that these sensor drones need their own set of magnetic docking pads or link couplings underneath. Thus fly them out to an appropriate location on the side of the cargo container and then lock them in place. Would these sensor drones ever be sent ahead of the container, at higher speed, to scout out the path being taken for potential problems like space junk and/or pirates?
The same would be more-or-less true for the gunnery drones, again having them fixed to the container(s) as extra defence. Do the gunnery drones ever need to actually fly out and fight or would that sort of thing be more on the lines of something that only military vehicles would do? What is allowed for commercial space vessels? I am not familiar with the applicable space regulations on this one.
For both sensor and gunnery drones the question is: “How big?” In my mind’s eye I can see that the sensor drones could be reasonably small. Gunnery drones would be another matter. At what point is it impractical to carry/mount these drones rather than have another ship fly in protective convoy with the cargo vessel?
A gunnery drone would need to be rather larger in order that it could be equipped with effective weaponry. And then there is the issue of power for any weapons that the gunnery drone could carry. I suppose a missile tube or two doesn’t need so very much, but carrying charpacs or lantern guns would suggest that the drone would also need either a pretty hefty power generation source or else sizeable battery packs. Not an issue when locked onto the cargo containers and drawing power via conduit from the ships, but out flying free (if required) is another matter. Again, this suggests that the drones will grow in size. Also, unlike a sensor drone, the gunnery drones would have to be able to swivel and rotate to aim, again increasing the size, weight and complexity requirements. Too, a gunnery drone flying out on its own would need fairly good thrusters and/or stabilization units.
As for thruster drones, yes this makes sense when the either the number and/or mass of the cargo containers exceeds the combined thrust potential of the box haulers engaged on that particular journey. For these things to be effective, again they would need to be fairly large and each would seem to need to have their own power supply or feed.
Another random thought: Regarding the need for a power supply for these remote drones. It seems to suggest that the cargo containers be designed with appropriate mounting points of said drones, perhaps also equipped with power attachment points. I suppose that power is channelled from the cargo haulers through the locking towers. This is all a moot point when the drones are out and flying free. What is more efficient out in space; power banks with fuel or battery packs? Also begs the question of the minimum size of a working reactor. Whatever, there seems to be a minimum power supply on each drone to allow for short range mobility. Any drone flying far away on an extended mission would need that much more.
Yet another thought strikes me even as I put down the other concerns. Are the drones always a part of the normal Box Hauler equipment, or are they hired on from some contractor for the duration of a journey as required? It might be that the number of drones required would vary depending upon the size and/or length of the load being hauled. For instance, a train of containers (2, 3, 4 or more) might require quite a few extra drones to be affixed to the containers down the length of the train. Assuming that these all belonged to the GM Box Hauler, then when all these drones were not in use and back in their bays, the cargo vessel itself would be rather a mess of drones underneath. Far simpler to simply hire on the appropriate number of drones for a particular journey. Or perhaps this is only holds true when the drone numbers required exceed the hauler’s basic drone minimum. You did mention the third-party service providers doing the between flight fuelling and maintenance of the drones. Couldn’t they just provide for all of the drones?
All of this makes me think that the design of the cargo containers is just as important as the ships that link up to them. Some of the design issues related to the cargo containers that come to mind off the top of my head:
The aforementioned drone mounting points.
Cargo loading/unloading hatches.
Linking points to enable trains of containers to be made fast to one another.
Guess I don’t have to worry too much about how they actually work, but it does speak to the graphical design of same. This suggests some hours of thought on that issue just on its own, a matter for another email and/or design sketches.
David, I’ll give it a rest for just now. As for the drones, I'll spend some time to come up with a few ideas. Feel free to put your oar (back) in the water on these issues. With regard to publishing this correspondence, it doesn’t bother me at all except that you might change my name to protect the innocent. I’m such a delicate flower.