Division Q: Portuguese Navy has special team that transforms everyday toys into killing machines
Division Q – alluding tongue-in-cheek to the ingenious James Bond movie boffin – is the ‘in house’ name of a department in the Portuguese Navy that develops explosives from everyday technological toys, like remote-controlled cars.
With an official name that translates into Unmanned Vehicle Operational Experimentation Cell, Division Q uses “asymmetrical thinking” to turn off-the-shelf tech into “instruments of mayhem”.
Explains tech site ARS Technica, the “handful of sailors” with “extensive technical training and talents in hardware hacking and engineering” have modified radio-controlled cars with cameras and grenade launchers.
Commanded by Lieutenant Tiago Mendes, Division Q reports directly to the fleet commander.
Explains Mendes, the Portuguese navy’s procurement process is too slow to bring in cutting-edge technology. As a result, sailors’ cell phones “have more computing power than the ships they sail on”.
Smaller organizations, such as terrorist cells, can exploit new technologies much faster than the Navy —as was seen when ISIS turned off-the-shelf quadcopter drones into grenade-dropping bombers.
But Division Q’s artistry isn’t necessarily intended to be used by the Portuguese navy against its enemies.
It is “a way to explore what an asymmetric, innovative enemy could do so that the military can develop countermeasures”.
“We’re like the flu vaccine,” Mendes told journalists. “We don’t do the change—we start the process.”