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The Canon Drone
March 19, 2013 9:01 AM   Subscribe

We've all seen it. The off-white UAV is seen side on, nose tilted slightly down, a stubby missile caught at the moment of launch beneath it, a blue and grey landscape of treeless mountains behind it. There's no motion blur and none of the markings on the aircraft have been obfuscated. It's a perfect shot. Except for one or two details.

The image is Google's #1 image search result for "drone."

Artist James Bridle posts on the topic of drones at his Tumblr, One Visible Future, and his familiarity with the subject led him to analyze the markings on the craft. His conclusion? As the drone pictured is marked as though it were an aircraft that entered service in 1985 and displays the insignia of a New York State National Air Guard unit, it's a fake.

He posted a link on Twitter this morning, and in a half-hour posted that the original artist had been found.

via, and h/t to, MeFi's own @brownpau
posted by mwhybark (56 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every time I look at a picture of a drone, fake or real, I find myself thinking "Look ye upon the bland, smooth face of Evil."
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:11 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


"We've all seen it."

That was the first time I'd seen that image, to my knowledge. And I've read a lot of articles about drones.
posted by yoink at 9:12 AM on March 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


There's something off about the image but I would never have guessed it was a 3d rendition/photoshop composition.

I ran the image through FotoForensics (the procedure is apparently called Error Level Analysis) and got the following results. How to interpret the results.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:12 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, when I read this post's title, I thought it was referring to Canon the camera maker, and that there was going to be something along the lines of "The Military as Canon Sees It".
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:13 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


‘You’re My Best Friend,’ Says Obama To Drone That Appears Outside Bedroom Window Every Night
posted by homunculus at 9:14 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Take that, Iran!
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:15 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every time I look at a picture of a drone, fake or real, I find myself thinking "Look ye upon the bland, smooth face of Evil."

So if a drone is the face of evil, what do you think when you see a picture of an ICBM?
posted by COBRA! at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


everytime I see a picture of a drone I think, "Where the fuck are my knife-missiles?"
posted by PugAchev at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Look ye upon the bland, smooth 'shopped face of Evil."

Wait? Does that mean that it's the photoshop artist that's evil?
posted by sammyo at 9:19 AM on March 19, 2013


Even putting the (considerable) issues with drones themselves aside, how scary that we've arrived at a place where this sort of digging is required to distinguish reality and individually-created special effects!

I wonder if future versions of Google Image Search or the web browsers themselves could have error level analysis and interpretation built in, much like the systems that already exist to help identify malware/phishing websites. "Firefox found reason to believe this image has been tampered with."
posted by Western Infidels at 9:21 AM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Needs more thumbs-up.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


COBRA!: So if a drone is the face of evil, what do you think when you see a picture of an ICBM?
The whole point of ICBMs was to be so scary (for everyone involved) that no one would ever have to use them. Which seems insane, but it's actually worked out so far.

The whole point of drones is to ensure the user has almost nothing to lose and can therefore use them at absolutely every opportunity. Which we have been doing, more or less.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:24 AM on March 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Why would anyone assume that a picture of the latest advance in military hardware would be real?
posted by DU at 9:27 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nice detective work and a good catch. This, however, is a bit much:

The Canon Drone is emblematic of the liminal, self-obfuscating essence of the UAV, and all of our noumenal infrastructures.

Look, it's a remote control plane with cameras and missiles. You don't have to imbue them with magical powers to disagree with the way they're used.

And there's no grand conspiracy regarding the image: it's a nice, punchy image that illustrates the action that people want to discuss. It was made by a guy playing around with his modeling software. It's a good enough fake to fool pretty much everyone at a first glance, so it's been copied by people not because they were trying to subvert the true image, but because it was convenient. There just doesn't seem to be either malicious intent or any actual harm or distortion of the truth involved here.
posted by echo target at 9:29 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, there's a picture on the internet that's actually a 3D-rendering?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


#1. PugAchev, I think it's more of a spork than a spoon.

#2. This really makes it a product of our collective unconscious, which is the very best way to create a bogeyman.

(Not pro-dronist, just making an observation.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:39 AM on March 19, 2013


Huh, I'd never seen that image before either, but the moment I saw it my first thought was "cgi". Then to find out it actually is cgi? Pretty funny but not surprising.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:39 AM on March 19, 2013


I've always thought that the ratio of machinery of war images ("real" or not) to human suffering images speaks rather poorly to the deliberative process Americans use when contemplating war.
posted by audi alteram partem at 9:56 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Firefox found reason to believe this image has been tampered with."

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posted by srboisvert at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Firefox found reason to believe this image has been tampered with."

"I can tell by the pixels, Dave."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:10 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would have guessed it was a brochure image. TBH.

Now I'm wondering what the brochures for these things look like.
posted by Artw at 10:20 AM on March 19, 2013


Now I'm wondering what the brochures for these things look like.

It's a lot of "The World can be yours! Be the envy of other major governments." sort of stuff.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:31 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Bad credit? No Credit? No Problem!"
posted by Chutzler at 10:48 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if a drone is the face of evil, what do you think when you see a picture of an ICBM?

Me, I think of realpolitik, Henry Kissinger, amoral imperatives, difficult choices, and doing what we could with what we had. While concerns over the Red Menace were somewhat overblown, it's easy to forget now that we were at odds with a rival superpower back then, threatening language was regularly exchanged, and that ultimately we did emerge from that nerve wracking period alive (although there are small, insane states rising now who might seek a return to it).

ICBMs are about killing people and blowing things up far away, but they were at least made with the knowledge that other side had them too. Drones, those are the constructions of a bully, they're about "projecting force without projecting vulnerability." The US attitude towards them would be entirely different if others could credibly send explosive death drones to us. Anyway, ICBMs didn't end up being used very much, thank god, while drone strikes happen with disconcerting frequency.
posted by JHarris at 10:52 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The US attitude towards them would be entirely different if others could credibly send explosive death drones to us.

Drones are comparatively cheap and are only going to get cheaper. If you're looking for a weapon which confers an asymmetrical advantage to the US, it's definitely not the drone.
posted by yoink at 10:59 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every time I look at a picture of a drone, fake or real, I find myself thinking "Look ye upon the bland, smooth face of Evil."

Funny, I've thought that about every piece of flying military hardware I've seen.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:06 AM on March 19, 2013


/is reminded of the time someone posted a picture of a helicopter above LA as evidence of killer drones.
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on March 19, 2013


Andrew Sullivan linked to this analysis that suggests the current drone war is winding down:
http://immasmartypants.blogspot.com/2013/03/as-talk-about-drone-war-heats-up-their.html?spref=tw

Doesn't make it ok, but I was a little surprised. I had assumed there had been a large escalation recently.
posted by jetsetsc at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Doesn't make it ok, but I was a little surprised. I had assumed there had been a large escalation recently.

There's a very weird disconnect between the actual impact of drones, the history of their deployment and the current state of hysteria about them in the US. If you're worried about the deaths of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan (which, of course, you should be), drones should be pretty far down on your list of concerns. Non-drone military hardware kills far more civilians than drones do, and deaths by drone are pretty steadily declining. You would never imagine that to be the case, however, from the discussion in the media.
posted by yoink at 11:41 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Funny, I've thought that about every piece of flying military hardware I've seen.

This, for instance, and the ICBMs mentioned upthread, aren't what I'd call bland and smooth. They strike me as more muscular and overtly threatening looking.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:54 AM on March 19, 2013


There's a very weird disconnect between the actual impact of drones, the history of their deployment and the current state of hysteria about them in the US.

Ah yes, the drive-by assertion disguised as a factual statement.

If you're worried about the deaths of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan (which, of course, you should be), drones should be pretty far down on your list of concerns.

I'm worried both about the deaths of civilians and the use of remote flying robot death machines. But thanks for trying to belittle our objections.
posted by JHarris at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2013


CIA Must End Silence on Drone Targeted Killings, Appeals Court Says

Prying open drone secrets
posted by homunculus at 12:06 PM on March 19, 2013


If the CIA stopped drone strikes because they'd run out of Al Queda then everybody would be happy, right?
posted by Artw at 12:11 PM on March 19, 2013


Assuming that drones will become ever cheaper, more stealthy, higher performance and more ubiquitous, the weak spots will show: in this case, comms and nav (apologies for illustration, which gets weirder the more you look at it).

How will that play out in asymmetric warfare? Your guess is as good as anyone's, but I'd bet my last spectrum analyser that we're going to see an awful lot of urban electronic warfare in the next few years, especially with commercial (and consumer) wireless systems being subsumed, traduced and attacked. After all, why do you even need to launch a comsat network if you're flying your gizmo through a very rich, very open wireless infrastructure that someone else has paid for?

As a first cut on what may happen here, I know where I'd start looking, based on the focus, experience and motivations of the parties involved.

Fun times ahead for the wireless geek.
posted by Devonian at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2013


Ah yes, the drive-by assertion disguised as a factual statement.

I find that using actual facts is a really good way to "disguise" a statement of fact as a factual statement.

If you think I said something counterfactual, you're welcome to point out my error. Which bit do you think was wrong? Do you think that there was more protest and general angst about drones several years ago than there is today? Do you think that there are more civilian deaths being caused by drones now than there were in the past? Do, please, enlighten me.

I'm worried both about the deaths of civilians and the use of remote flying robot death machines.

Find me a recent Metafilter thread where anyone has talked at any length at all about any of the various ways Afghanistani and Pakistani civilians are being killed other than drones. I don't say it's impossible, but you'll find at least ten threads about drones for every one about others.
posted by yoink at 12:24 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


... what do you think when you see a picture of an ICBM?

In short, ICBMs project an image of "unthinkable", drones project an image of "useful".
posted by benito.strauss at 12:26 PM on March 19, 2013


Now I'm wondering what the brochures for these things look like.

Company brochure from General Atomics.
posted by PandaMomentum at 1:09 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I totes new it was a fake. You sheepeeple.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 1:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a very strangely-written article. It's should be "canonical drone", and it's weird to call an alteration to a picture "a photoshop". A "Photoshop job" maybe, or you can say the image "was photoshopped".
posted by w0mbat at 1:46 PM on March 19, 2013


it's weird to call an alteration to a picture "a photoshop"

Not among the people I know. Friends, family, clients, coworkers; I've heard this countless times.
posted by chazlarson at 2:21 PM on March 19, 2013


Err, not only have I not seen that before, it doesn't look real to me. I can tell by the pixels It looks like something Pixar or Blue Sky would produce, if they were charged with producing a picture of a drone.

deaths by drone are pretty steadily declining.

It helps when the government defines everyone who dies in a drone strike a non-civilian.
posted by dirigibleman at 2:53 PM on March 19, 2013


It helps when the government defines everyone who dies in a drone strike a non-civilian.

Non-civilians aren't people?
posted by Artw at 3:17 PM on March 19, 2013


Not in NewSpeak, they aren't.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:43 PM on March 19, 2013


Fiendish. The linked article just mentions the declining number of attacks though, not mentioning the number of civilians or non-civilians at all - presumably attacks that only affect non-civilians are dismissed as non-attacks land not recorded as part of this Orwellian scheme?
posted by Artw at 5:26 PM on March 19, 2013



I wonder if future versions of Google Image Search or the web browsers themselves could have error level analysis and interpretation built in, much like the systems that already exist to help identify malware/phishing websites.


I've worked on that idea a little. https://github.com/wiseman/foolseye is some old code for an algorithmically-aided crowdsourced image debunking site. At Google I worked on a similar idea with a few other people as a 20% project, with the plan of making it part of image search or a browser extension, but I don't know what became of it after I left.

(BTW, I've never seen error level analysis give useful results. It's like reading animal entrails--you can see whatever you want.)
posted by jjwiseman at 5:29 PM on March 19, 2013


I always wondered why people thought Skynet was so evil simply because it was run by a machine intelligence.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:56 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't know this use of drone tech had been started and used a lot already:

In a little over a year, an autonomous helicopter deployed to Afghanistan has completed 1000 resupply missions to US Marine forward operating bases in Afghanistan (company video)
posted by lazaruslong at 8:17 PM on March 19, 2013


lazaruslong: "I didn't know this use of drone tech had been started and used a lot already:

In a little over a year, an autonomous helicopter deployed to Afghanistan has completed 1000 resupply missions to US Marine forward operating bases in Afghanistan (company video)
"

Thanks for that. I had read that things like that were on the horizon, but I had no idea they'd already done that many missions.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing that always strikes me about drones (lol) is that I always forget how big they are. For whatever reason, I picture like, a beefed up version of those big styrofoam gliders that were popular when we were kids, maybe the size of a car or so, as opposed to something the size of an actual jet.

I don't know know that it changes anything about them, it's just jarring every time I see one at ground level.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:28 AM on March 20, 2013


No More Drones for CIA: Three senior officials tell Daniel Klaidman that the Obama administration is poised to shift the CIA’s drone program to the Pentagon.
posted by homunculus at 10:43 AM on March 20, 2013


Why it matters if the Pentagon takes command of the CIA’s drones.
posted by Artw at 10:59 PM on March 21, 2013


When the Whole World Has Drones: The precedents the U.S. has set for robotic warfare may have fearsome consequences as other countries catch up.
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can Drones Save the Elephants?
posted by homunculus at 10:37 AM on March 24, 2013


Inside Nasa’s hurricane drone lab
posted by homunculus at 1:36 PM on March 25, 2013


Mayor Bloomberg says surveillance drones are inevitable in NYC: 'get used to it'
posted by homunculus at 10:25 AM on March 26, 2013


When the Whole World Has Drones: The precedents the U.S. has set for robotic warfare may have fearsome consequences as other countries catch up.

This is just what I've been worrying about for months. God, thanks for uncorking that bottle CIA!

Mayor Bloomberg says surveillance drones are inevitable in NYC: 'get used to it'

It's amazing how being told to get used to it makes people argumentative and unwilling to accept something. Anyway, something certainly can be done about surveillance drones, the same thing something can be done about nuclear weapons: refuse to use the damn things.
posted by JHarris at 11:42 AM on March 26, 2013


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