Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Worker bees can leave. Even drones can fly away. The Queen is their slave.
April 24, 2012 8:09 AM   Subscribe

It is well known that the US military and their allies use unmanned aerial drones overseas in wars and other operations. But there are also hundreds in operation here in the U.S., according to records the Federal Aviation Administration has recently released. Local police departments already have used them in SWAT situations, and the Department of Homeland Security has given the green light for them to deploy a drone helicopter that can supposedly taze suspects from above as well as carrying 12-gauge shotguns and grenade launchersas well as providing surveillance. Congress has paved the way for as many as 30,000 drones in the skies over the US by 2020, which has privacy advocates alarmed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a map with all of the organizations that have permits to use drones within the confines of the US.

"The ShadowHawk is a 50lb mini drone chopper that can be fitted with an XREP taser with the ability to fire four barbed electrodes that can be shot to a distance of 100 feet, delivering 'neuromuscular incapacitation' to the victim. The drone can travel at a top speed of 70MPH and can operate for 3.5 hours over land and sea... The drone also has the capacity to carry 37mm or 40mm grenade launchers and or a multiple shot 12 gauge shotgun." -- infowars.com
posted by crunchland (93 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Please tell me they are all controlled by faux-Russian-American accents.
posted by Fizz at 8:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Beeg traubel for moose and squirrel!
posted by Danf at 8:13 AM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


I stand by my predictions.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 8:20 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


It is inevitable that law enforcement will fit the drones with speed measuring devices and cameras to detect speeding vehicles and other traffic violation. Cash strapped cities will see drones as a revenue source. Then they won't be hunting terrorists and illegal aliens...they'll be hunting you.
posted by Xoc at 8:22 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


This will be an excellent tool in the war on flea markets.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:29 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm just surprised that government isn't freaking out about terrorist drones or DIY cruise missiles if you prefer. There was the NZ hobbyist guy that got shut down I suppose.
posted by Chekhovian at 8:30 AM on April 24, 2012


If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. Right?
posted by Brak at 8:31 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


UADs certainly are going to redefine the term "reasonable expectation of privacy" unless some courts begin to push back against their indiscriminate use.

Was a time, building a tall backyard fence meant you could sunbathe naked with a reasonable expectation of privacy. Not with these things around. Also meant you might be able to grow an outdoor pot plant or two. Not with these things around.

I'm sure there are other activities which formerly could take place behind a wall which now could be curtailed because the cops can just fly over any time they want and see you doing it. Some legal but not socially acceptable, some illegal but not harming anyone.

I'm not sure I want to trade a reasonable expectation of privacy for the supposed off-chance that a UAD might discover someone being held prisoner in a backyard someplace. That kind of broad sweep mentality is going to make all our cities into a panopticon whether we want it or not, and without even our having any input into the process.
posted by hippybear at 8:32 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Please, we all know it can't happen here.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:33 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


So they can send out drones to spy on us, taze us, and kill us. But it's illegal to use a drone to deliver tacos.

There is something badly wrong with this country.
posted by sotonohito at 8:34 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


What I found striking about the EFF map of permits is how many post-secondary institutions have applied, including smaller community colleges.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:36 AM on April 24, 2012


What I found striking about the EFF map of permits is how many post-secondary institutions have applied, including smaller community colleges.

A friend of mine who's a professor of journalism is really, really interested in exploring the uses of drones for journalism, and has a little lab set up for it at his school (which, oddly, isn't on that map). Could be stuff like that.
posted by COBRA! at 8:39 AM on April 24, 2012


Hippybear, what do you think the cops do today with helicopters? If I recall correctly, the only limitations on police aerial powers is whether or not they can use intrusive sensing technology to see inside your house without a warrant. So the courts have ruled its okay to passively view the amount of heat your house emits (to catch pot growers), but not okay to use x-rays or radar to see inside your house unless they have a reason. (I'm not a lawyer, so I'm willing to be corrected).

The problems isn't that the authorities can look over your fence from the air. The problem is that 1) drones are much, much cheaper than helicopters, likely leading to much more pervasive surveillance and 2) whether or not the drones are weaponized (which they will be).

Regarding the community colleges and universities who've applied for drone permits, I suspect most of them were for research programs, not surveillance. I'd certainly want my university to have a drone research program if I was training to be an aerospace engineer these days.
posted by postel's law at 8:41 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is inevitable that law enforcement will fit the drones with speed measuring devices and cameras to detect speeding vehicles and other traffic violation. Cash strapped cities will see drones as a revenue source. Then they won't be hunting terrorists and illegal aliens...they'll be hunting you.

You are completely wrong about this.

Where I live there are Number Plate identification systems all around the city that are not used for enforcement, disabled speeding cameras and police stations that have massive red-light running problems not even 500 feet away.

The police will only use these things if their masters see political value in it. Even if there are massive cutbacks to policing numbers and budgets as there are here.

For the moment there is sufficient political capital to be earned by allowing continued criminality by those who like to travel around aggressively in armoured boxes terrorizing those who are not that it offsets any potential revenue gains.
posted by srboisvert at 8:42 AM on April 24, 2012


backyard camo nets.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:46 AM on April 24, 2012


Regarding the community colleges and universities who've applied for drone permits, I suspect most of them were for research programs, not surveillance. I'd certainly want my university to have a drone research program if I was training to be an aerospace engineer these days.

Yeah, I'm guessing that's why Kansas State has one (or maybe for some other thing - could you use a drone to monitor controlled burning of farmland, for example?

Not sure why the nearby city of Herington, KS (population of about 2500) needs one, though.
posted by dismas at 8:48 AM on April 24, 2012


backyard camo nets.

...will mean that you have something to hide and that you are definitely need in of being served with a no-knock warrant.
posted by elizardbits at 8:49 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


Do the permits actually allow deployment of weapons. I think that's stupid and dangerous. I can see them in a barricade situation, or a hostage situation as a pair of eyes above the scene, but remotely shooting anyone with anything from the air in a law enforcement context makes zero sense.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:50 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


urban camouflage.
posted by crunchland at 8:51 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


werkzeuger: "What I found striking about the EFF map of permits is how many post-secondary institutions have applied, including smaller community colleges."

Also the number of rural fire departments as well as federal forest service and agriculture folks.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:59 AM on April 24, 2012


Shadowhawk spec sheet for those adverse to clicking on an infowars.com link.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:01 AM on April 24, 2012


Hippybear, what do you think the cops do today with helicopters?

The town of 10000 people I live in doesn't have the police funded to the level where they could possibly afford a helicopter. I could easily see them getting funding for UADs, however.

Plus, UADs can fly a lot closer to the ground than helicopters for surveillance. PLUS, you don't have to have someone helicopter certified and pay them accordingly, plus have other people on board doing the surveillance instead of piloting the copter. You have people who know how to operate the UADs, sitting comfortably in the place they pilot them from.

The possibilities of intrusion by UADs into regular life, which are much cheaper to deploy and much smaller and less noisy and much more maneuverable than helicopters, are a lot greater than helicopters.
posted by hippybear at 9:01 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


srboisvert, the situation regarding speed cameras and automatic license plate readers (ALPR) may be a bit different here in the US compared to what you're describing in the UK. Police departments absolutely make use of them to supplement their budgets (I actually don't have a problem with this, so long as they are properly calibrated and the law is reasonable, which can be a big if), and the now routine installation of plate identification systems on police cars has put a huge dent in auto theft in the last five years.

However, ALPR raises its own privacy concerns in that the systems are usually set up to indefinitely store all plates scanned (not just those that return hits in the stolen car or outstanding warrant databases) along with location data.
posted by postel's law at 9:03 AM on April 24, 2012


urban camouflage

That kind of camoflage is really only useful against high altitude bombers using limited visual scopes, however.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:04 AM on April 24, 2012


If you read a bit further, you'll see that I agree with you, hippybear. The magnitude of the problem grows with drones, but the issues are the same (at least until we start talking about autonomous drones).
posted by postel's law at 9:05 AM on April 24, 2012


Why are your governments so afraid of you?
posted by dash_slot- at 9:06 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Drones are an amazing resource for scientific work. For surveys or mapping of any kind, they're the bee's knees. They've recently become cheap enough, to justify buying to amplify ground personnel or to replace the need for helicopter overflights.

I'm involved in a project to map the coastlines of Canada, an enormous effort, which needs to be done at a fairly fine level of detail to give us the ecological information we need. In the past, this meant walking the shores with cameras. Only the most populated areas were completed and at staggering cost. A decade ago, technology improved to the point we could map with high-resolution cameras and synthetic-aperture radar, side-mounted in a helicopter instead of the ground surveys, but costs were still in the millions of dollars for a summer campaign. Times to complete the entire project were (are) still in the decades. Locating helicopter resources away from populated areas too, is very costly. The north and the Arctic are proving to be very expensive to map.

Drones, in combination with satellite imagery, may finally be the enabling technology which is both rapid and cheap enough to complete this sort of project in reasonable time, say a human lifetime. We can put a single person on a boat or a truck and have them map kilometers of shore in a morning. Drones are not as fast individually as a helicopter, but the low cost means we can deploy more people and for much longer working seasons. A drone costs as little as a day or two use of the helicopter system. We can potentially do a lot more science for the buck with drones than maned overflights.

Drones are going to revolutionize the field sciences, from big-animal biology to geomorphology.
posted by bonehead at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


UADs can fly a lot closer to the ground than helicopters for surveillance. -- I was struck by how loud the drone copter is. Not stealthy in the least. But it's probably only a matter of time before they work around that issue.
posted by crunchland at 9:10 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only defence is going to be 24/7 personal AV sousveillance with realtime off-site streaming and backup; I predict an uptick in funny looking hats. This won't keep you from getting killed by a trigger-happy drone op, but it will help your bereaved's attorney bring a wrongful death suit.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:11 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bet the cops are eventually going to feel what it's like to be on the other side of these things: aerial surveillance (or worse) of police and politicians at work and home, armed drones as lookouts and guards and hitmen, stealthy drones delivering drugs and weapons and people, etc. Everything from tiny RC helicopters up to military-grade drones will be standard tools of big-time crime.
posted by pracowity at 9:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The technology is always agnostic. If one is concerned about the interference of drones with daily life and privacy, the solution is not restricting the technology or being fearful of technology, but political and social change.
posted by nickrussell at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


"That's a very nice, and expensive, drone you got there. Be ashamed if something bad happened to it."

Seems like fun target practice for a bored, don't tread on me or my aerial vicinity type.
posted by whatgorilla at 9:28 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


The quad-copter UAVs we've just got are anything but stealthy. They're about as loud as a chainsaw.

PLUS, you don't have to have someone helicopter certified and pay them accordingly, plus have other people on board doing the surveillance instead of piloting the copter.

This is a huge deal. The skill level needed to fly these things now is much less than even the RC helicopters required. People have been able to build small RC drones for twenty years or more, but they were impossible to fly in anything but the most ideal conditions, and required almost super-human control to get them to hover. They were a complete disaster as a mapping or data collection platform.

The quad-copters being made available now are much, much simpler to operate. You don't pilot them, you tell them where to go, via waypoints, and how high to fly. We can use our regular field staff to operate them with a few days training, rather than needing a specialist certified operator. That's the reason these things are now coming on the market---the UAV flies itself. The operator can worry about mission and doesn't have to know about the mechanics of flight.
posted by bonehead at 9:32 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The skill level needed to fly these things now is much less than even the RC helicopters required. People have been able to build small RC drones for twenty years or more, but they were impossible to fly in anything but the most ideal conditions, and required almost super-human control to get them to hover.

yeah i remember the San Andreas mission you're talking about. only time in my life i truly hated David Cross.
posted by fetamelter at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


If one is concerned about the interference of drones with daily life and privacy, the solution is not restricting the technology or being fearful of technology, but political and social change.

Two ways of saying the same thing. Sometimes restricting and being fearing of technology is a good thing.
posted by smorange at 9:41 AM on April 24, 2012


How long until the cops use these things instead of helicopters to buzz people's backyards to find out if they're growing grass?
posted by dunkadunc at 10:18 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm waiting for the first one to become engine bits inside the turbofan of a commercial airliner. Yes, you're not supposed to fly them near airports or high enough to cause problems with aircraft. You can add this to the list of things that people are not supposed to do but do all the time.
posted by eriko at 10:19 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder what countermeasures-ban laws they are going to have to enact to keep these safe from those who don't like them.
posted by bz at 10:23 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm struck by how the little copter drones look so much like mini-helicopters. I would think that without the need for a human pilot and all it's attendant design requirements we'd see the creation of other designs (the quadrotor being one) that are quieter and more efficient.

Maybe it's just that the helicopter design is a known quantity?
posted by gofargogo at 10:23 AM on April 24, 2012


I'd certainly want my university to have a drone research program if I was training to be an aerospace engineer these days.

We already do. Note the requirement of US citizenship; the school has a strong and bustling aviation program (the largest non-military training fleet in the world) and tons of international students but they are not allowed to be involved with UAVs. This is in a sleepy town no one is really paying attention to (except for the Olive Garden reviews, apparently) and it's already happening. The future is here.
posted by librarylis at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2012


buzz people's backyards to find out if they're growing grass?

Damn HOA.
posted by ODiV at 10:27 AM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wonder what countermeasures-ban laws

They won't be able to restrict them. They'll have Drone-Counter Drones, Hunter-Killer Drones, Sentry Drones around airports, etc etc. Begun, these metal-wars have.
posted by Chekhovian at 10:27 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's time they released Blue Thunder II: Attack of the Drones
posted by mecran01 at 10:32 AM on April 24, 2012


you're not supposed to fly them near airports or high enough to cause problems with aircraft.

Because they're operated rather than flown, GPS lockouts are possible on the operator flight paths. I would not be surprised to see restrictions on the controls required for permitting. While this won't solve the problems of malicious users, lockouts may stop people from goofing around or just doing something stupid.
posted by bonehead at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2012


bz: "I wonder what countermeasures-ban laws they are going to have to enact to keep these safe from those who don't like them."

One presumes they'll have to go all the way to banning soldering irons. (I'm aware the power of the linked design is rated in tenths of a watt. A 300 watt version could still hypothetically fit in a suitcase.)
posted by ob1quixote at 10:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


GPS lockouts are possible on the operator flight paths.

Could you describe how this works? A cursory google search did not provide an explanation. Is the signal jammed?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:41 AM on April 24, 2012


ob1quixote to the rescue.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:42 AM on April 24, 2012


We already do. Note the requirement of US citizenship

I know of several programs in Canada.

Really, once we got high performance microcontrollers and MEMS knocking the cost of knowing which way your plane is pointing, it was going to happen.

Check this out. Three axis gyro for quick response, three axis accelerometer for slow response, and a three axis magnetometer to help confirm the first and second are good. The board does all the work and spits the data out via a simple serial bus. Throw in this to tell you where you are (and a reasonable idea of how high you are, which you can refine with this) and you have all the information you need to have a reliable UAV.

You'll need software, of course. Maybe it's on some website out there. You will also need a plane. To be honest, for most geeks out there, the hard part about this is the plane.

Could you describe how this works? A cursory google search did not provide an explanation. Is the signal jammed?

No. GPS gives you (provided you have enough sats in view) a full 3D position. You could set rules like "ignore commands to climb above 1000 feet" and "do not fly into this Class B airspace."

However, this also means you need basically to have the local topo and sectional maps loaded onto your UAV. Big expensive ones probably have this. J. Random hacker's Aurdino based one, not so much.
posted by eriko at 10:47 AM on April 24, 2012


The topo map is on the controller rather than a UAV in the ones I'm aware of, but yes, the controls not allowing flightpaths through certain areas is exactly what I mean.

The radio jammers would work too. If ours lose radio contact with the control for too long, they try to land.
posted by bonehead at 10:51 AM on April 24, 2012


The quad-copter UAVs we've just got are anything but stealthy. They're about as loud as a chainsaw.

But for a quick and quiet reconnaissance flyby, you could drop an RC camera glider from an RC helicopter while you sip an RC Cola.
posted by pracowity at 10:53 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, what I expect to become common for serious bad guys to have around: Shotguns with birdshot. The question becomes what size -- I'd guess #2 to #4 would be a good combination of range and shot density, though maybe going up to BB would give you a better knockdown.
posted by eriko at 10:55 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then there's this guy.
posted by pracowity at 11:06 AM on April 24, 2012


How long until the cops use these things instead of helicopters to buzz people's backyards to find out if they're growing grass?

When do they take delivery? I'd guess this summer: looking for pot is the most obvious no-brainer thing for them to be used for. That, and people fucking - but that's just the cops as individuals and not department policy.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:19 AM on April 24, 2012


We already do. Note the requirement of US citizenship

Note that this is because of ITAR restrictions.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:28 AM on April 24, 2012


Once again, The Future owes William Gibson royalties.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:29 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Shadowhawk spec sheet for those adverse to clicking on an infowars.com link.


MK -III
UAS with day CCD, FLIR and thermal
cameras, fully autonomous avionics
and
weaponoized with either 40mm, 37mm
grenade launcher or 12 gauge shotgun
with laser designator (military/LE use
only.)

MK - IV
Unavailable to non-military users.


So if MK-III is the weaponized version, complete with a grenade launcher or shotgun and available to non-military, I'm trying to figure out what the apparently not listed specs are of the MK-IV. Somewhere between intrigued and horrified.
posted by Big_B at 11:51 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an over-stimulated private arms industry run amok, and it might actually be worse than it sounds.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 11:51 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also I really have a hard time picturing how a 50lb drone would fire a 12-gauge shotgun while flying. How do you control the effects of recoil?
posted by Big_B at 11:52 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm trying to figure out what the apparently not listed specs are of the MK-IV.

Deniability.
posted by pracowity at 11:57 AM on April 24, 2012


So they can send out drones to spy on us, taze us, and kill us. But it's illegal to use a drone to deliver tacos.

There is something badly wrong with this country.


Don't get me wrong, Jake, I love the tacos. They're maybe the best tacos I've ever had. But, I think if I had to choose between the privacy and the tacos, I have to choose the privacy.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:13 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Increasingly prevalent drones operated by police forces etc. make me question my position that the people talking about what is typically conspiracy theory fodder in the CISPA thread might be on to something. Scary stuff, especially when you can't even search for information about the drones without someone knowing about it.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:44 PM on April 24, 2012


The lab I work in deals with air traffic control human factors issues and has up until now dealt with the roles of ATCos (air traffic controllers) and traditional pilots in the NextGen system, which will slowly replace our currently outdated air traffic control system as air traffic continues to build in the national air space (or NAS, because everything government related uses an acronym). We're funded by NASA, which for reasons I do not entirely understand plays a significant role in all of this research, and we've recently been told by the people that control the money spigot that we're now going to begin studying similar air traffic issues with UAS (unmanned aircraft systems). This is, very clearly, The Next Big Thing and my advisors are all in Washington D.C. at this very moment trying to understand what exactly we'll be doing.

Generally, one of the biggest issues stopping even greater implementation of UAS in the NAS right now are concerns of how they will interact with the current system of air traffic control. Not only will we have ACTos interacting with pilots in the air over communication systems we know work, but ACTos interacting with pilots on the ground in remote locations who could, at some point, be flying multiple planes at once (scary, I know). How will ACTos react to UAS? How will they need to treat them differently?

Most importantly, the FAA is very concerned about something called "detect, sense, and avoid" in UAS. A piloted plane has a multitude of gadgets and systems that allow detection of a potential collision and methods to efficiently avoid it, one of those being the ability of the pilot to simply look out the windows. When it comes to "looking out the windows" a UAS pilot is lucky if he has wrap around monitors. The FAA, ideally, wants to make UAS as safely integrated into the NAS as regular planes, but technological limitations and government pressure make it look to me like that won't happen by the time UAS are allowed into the NAS more extensively, which has been set to be in September of 2015 as mentioned in the Washington Post link. There's a scramble to make everything as safe as possible in the little time left, which is why our lab has been instructed to do such a pivot.

There is no doubt that there are all sorts of scary things that the government can do with UAS, and I almost exclusively call them "flying death machines" with my co-workers when the advisors aren't around, but as bonehad mentioned, there is a lot of really cool scientific research that drones are facilitating. Our lab had the privilege of visiting NASA Dryden last year and we were shown a room that they fly the Global Hawk from to do science missions over the Pacific. The room was divided into two sections separated by a large window, a small section up front for the pilots and a larger section in back for all of the scientists that have interest in whatever mission is being flown. There were maybe 20 computer terminals for the scientists and our tour guide told us that they didn't have the division at first but found that the scientists (who were not all there for the same purpose) would all bicker and yell out to the pilots to amend flight plans in ways that would be beneficial to their research.

NASA also used the Ikhana to fly the Western States Fire Missions (our tour guide was that guy in the bottom-most photo) which allowed them to provide real time heat maps of forest fires to people on the ground in a time frame that was hours earlier than is normally possible. They had to go through a painstaking process to get permission from the FAA to do this just a few times, so, as a counterpoint to all of the scary privacy intrusion business, it'll be nice to have this tremendous capability more easily after drones are allowed in the airspace.

Here are a couple more interesting links about UAS in the NAS if you're interested.
posted by Defenestrator at 12:48 PM on April 24, 2012 [8 favorites]


This is horrifying. Sure, there's room for reasonably debate on the lawful and legitimate use of a drone or two for limited law enforcement purposes. But, apologies for going all parade of horribles here, it's never just one drone or limited uses. There's always mission creep. I've encountered plenty of honorable, ethical, constitution-respecting, do-it-by-the-book law enforcement officers in my line of work. That being said, I sure as hell don't want even those good ones essentially everywhere, at every moment.

Here's hoping that when (not if) Fourth Amendment cases involving domestic drone usage make their way into the courts, judges are keen to apply the "mosaic" theory of Fourth Amendment privacy (the quick and dirty: things one does in public, like driving, are normally not protected by the Fourth Amendment, but technology, such as GPS trackers, that allow law enforcement to form such a complete portrait of one's public activities that it can divulge private information runs into Fourth Amendment privacy concerns) relied on by the Alito and Sotomayor concurrences in the recent Jones SCOTUS case.

My god, hoping that Alito will protect the civil rights of non-corporate persons. We're truly through the looking glass, Alice.
posted by onebadparadigm at 12:58 PM on April 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


> Also I really have a hard time picturing how a 50lb drone would fire a 12-gauge shotgun while flying. How do you control the effects of recoil?

I recall seeing a video of a remote controlled helicopter with a machine gun that had a computer controlled throttle adjustment whenever it fired, so I suspect it's just a question of engineering and testing.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:29 PM on April 24, 2012


Not that I am unconcerned about all this, but it does cut both ways. How much easier to watch and document how the police handle that riot when you can fly a drone over the shenanigans? Or watching to see if some one or organization is dumping toxic waste? or really find out all kinds of things that are really, really tough right now. While it make it cheaper for public organizations to provide aerial surveillance (although it still takes eyeballs that have to be paid somehow) it also makes it possible for private orgs, like greenpeace or your local newspaper or even well to do blogger the same.

It is one of those genies that once out changes everything.

Plus if it can accurately hover and aim a shotgun at you, you can aim a shotgun at it. These things can't be robust. How hard is it to break your gas power weed eater? and the first time one of these things crash and burn a house down their will be hell to pay.
posted by bartonlong at 1:41 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Plus if it can accurately hover and aim a shotgun at you, you can aim a shotgun at it.

I'm thinking that soon enough they will be precise enough to shoot accurately while cruising at speed.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:41 PM on April 24, 2012


Some clever soul will invent an automatic drone-tracking shotgun pretty soon, I'm sure.
posted by pjern at 2:03 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


How much easier to watch and document how the police handle that riot when you can fly a drone over the shenanigans?

Considering how much trouble one can get into just for audio or video recording police, I think it's just a matter of time before operating your own drone for this purpose is considered a serious crime.
posted by werkzeuger at 2:05 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Spud phalanx!
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:06 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


50lb drone would fire a 12-gauge shotgun while flying. How do you control the effects of recoil

Some sort of recoiless configuration could work, just fire a bunch of plastic shards with equal and opposite momentum at the same time.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:18 PM on April 24, 2012


Thinking about this thread a little further...you know, up to now the R/C hobby world has been a pretty geeky, fairly fringe area. I wonder if those people are in for more suspicion or a crackdown in the years to come, or at least a lot more regulatory attention?
posted by werkzeuger at 2:25 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would like to see millions of dogs trained to react in some way if a drone is operating nearby. Then I would like to see some sort of cheap easily available technology that would cause drones to fall out of the sky.

I hope someone is working on that.
posted by wrapper at 2:26 PM on April 24, 2012


millions of dogs trained to react in some way if a drone is operating nearby

Doesn't that only work if the terminators, oops I mean drones, are covered in rubber skin? Don't the new model ones slip past? Though who knows with the liquid metal ones.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:29 PM on April 24, 2012


Invest in model rocketry, proximity fuses, and large capacitors. I suppose it's only a matter of time until the drones are EMP-hardened, but that's going to be seriously expensive.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2012


The Rise of the Killer Drones: How America Goes to War in Secret. An inside look at how killing by remote control has changed the way we fight.
posted by homunculus at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2012


CIA seeks new authority to expand Yemen drone campaign

America’s drone sickness
posted by homunculus at 2:50 PM on April 24, 2012


Drones for “urban warfare”: Manufacturers are targeting U.S. police forces for sales, as drones move from the Middle East to Main Street
posted by homunculus at 2:53 PM on April 24, 2012


We could offset the cost with advertising streamers.
posted by clavdivs at 3:04 PM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not one Skynet joke, yet?
How much easier to watch and document how the police handle that riot when you can fly a drone over the shenanigans?
Unlikely. The public can't even use UAVs to deliver tacos. And as has already been pointed out, many states have already criminalized the simple act of filming police under any circumstances, with penalties as high as 15 years in prison. (presumably these laws are unconstitutional, but this should give you an idea of how far things have already shifted against the average citizen in trying to make police accountable).

Meanwhile, the police can film you all they want if you're in public. And you have no reasonable expectation of privacy in your own back yard from aerial surveillance.

So what would stop the police from parking these vehicles 24/7 above every neighborhood in America and record everything that goes on in the streets, sidewalks, front and back yards? Just cost and possible political backlash?

And while it's fun to joke about shooting these things down, you could spend up to 20 years in prison just for shining a laser pointer at a police helicopter. So basically even the slightest hint of resistance (filming police officers brutally beating an innocent person, or shining a bright light at the ghetto birds that wake the neighborhood up at 2am for a traffic stop) can mean the end of your natural life behind bars, or at least a chunk of it.

You don't have to worry about the horrible oppression of basic constitutional rights at some distant time in the future at the hands of sci-fi UAVs, we're already kinda there now... it just doesn't happen often enough (yet) for people to really be aware of it.

Worth a peek: Reasonable Expectation of Privacy. (btw most records/information that you reveal to third parties like your bank aren't protected).
posted by Davenhill at 3:46 PM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


There is some good news on the watching-the-watchmen front, at least in the states covered by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
posted by adamg at 6:51 PM on April 24, 2012


Then I would like to see some sort of cheap easily available technology that would cause drones to fall out of the sky.

If they're given good inertial guidance systems, nothing you can do from the ground short of shooting them down (not recommended) will do a lot of good. Not except legislation, of course. Don't forget to vote.
posted by pracowity at 8:44 PM on April 24, 2012


Don't forget to vote.

Combine 2012!
posted by homunculus at 8:48 PM on April 24, 2012


wrapper: "I would like to see millions of dogs trained to react in some way if a drone is operating nearby. Then I would like to see some sort of cheap easily available technology that would cause drones to fall out of the sky.

I hope someone is working on that.
"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nvfQw8UCDE
posted by dunkadunc at 8:48 PM on April 24, 2012


Prototype Quadrotor with Machine Gun!
posted by telstar at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2012


I doubt we'll see widespread use of shot/machine gun armed drones patrolling the cities any time soon. Drones are great for scouting/surveillance and launching missiles at range but bring them in close where a gun will be useful and they'll be shot out of the sky.
posted by the_artificer at 3:45 PM on April 25, 2012


Not if the people they're shooting don't have guns.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:18 PM on April 25, 2012


Well, in the 'States we have more guns than people. So the more apt question is do the guns have people?
posted by Chekhovian at 11:39 PM on April 25, 2012


The boy, 16, sitting with me in these photos was protesting against deadly US drone strikes... Three days later he was killed – by a US drone
posted by homunculus at 9:38 AM on April 26, 2012


White House approves broader Yemen drone campaign

Here's the Bruce Ackerman piece mentioned in the article: Expanding bombings in Yemen takes war too far
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on April 26, 2012


Very interesting stuff
posted by travelwire at 2:54 PM on April 26, 2012


Theme song for the drone corps.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:34 AM on April 27, 2012


Drone victims’ defender speaks: The deaths of innocent Pakistani civilians turned Shahzad Akbar from a U.S. friend to full-time critic
posted by homunculus at 2:21 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Drones invade campus: Universities are buying drones faster than police departments -- and the military is helping foot the bill
posted by homunculus at 12:51 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older @irkafirka illustrates tweets....  |  Lessons in the Art of Pillow F... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments