Droning on — eyes in the skies

mikrokopterI’ve never really liked hyperlinks, which is passing strange  since one of the few things I might be remembered for is fighting a  major Internet case   at the Supreme Court of Canada.

It centered on whether on not linking is the same as publishing.

I’ve always thought  the way to catch people’s eyes  is when they’re  actually looking, not to try to get them to go somewhere else.

With that in mind,  I’d really  like to be able to  rerun the National Geographic piece  in full. But I’m afraid of being sued for copyright infringement,  so you’ll just have to click the pic on the right,  or the link  above.

Anyway, the item kicks off »»»

Unmanned aircraft have proved their prowess against al Qaeda.  (Or so we’re told.)

Now they’re poised to take off on the home front. Possible missions: patrolling borders, tracking perps, dusting crops.

“And maybe watching us all?” —

And that’s the operative phrase.

It’s not Facebook, or Google or Microsoft  or any of the big data mining companies  we need to be worried about.

It’s eyes in the skies,  not only watching our every move,  but able to rain down  murder and mayhem  without warning if the people controlling the eyes  deem it desirable.

It’s, “okay to kill Americans  with unmanned drone aircraft  as long as their deaths save American lives,  “that’s the essence  of a leaked justice department memo which deals with he US government’s justifications for using drones to kill Americans abroad,” I posted recently, quoting the BBC.

A spokesperson for CAE, In, located in Montreal, has confirmed that a series of test drone test flights have  taking place in recent weeks as the country  “looks towards purchasing drones for domestic use,”  I said in another Dammit post.

“According to CAE’s vice president, Pietro D’Ulisse, the capabilities of the craft will be a great asset for law enforcement across Canada.”

Now,  “A law signed by President Barack Obama in February 2012 directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to throw American airspace wide open to drones by September 30, 2015 says the National Geographic story, continuing  »»»

But for now Mesa County, with its empty skies, is one of only a few jurisdictions with an FAA permit to fly one. The sheriff ’s office has a three-foot-wide helicopter drone called a Draganflyer, which stays aloft for just 20 minutes.

The Falcon can fly for an hour, and it’s easy to operate. “You just put in the coordinates, and it flies itself,” says Benjamin Miller, who manages the unmanned aircraft program for the sheriff ’s office.

To navigate, Johnson types the desired altitude and airspeed into the laptop and clicks targets on a digital map; the autopilot does the rest.

To launch the Falcon, you simply hurl it into the air. An accelerometer switches on the propeller only after the bird has taken flight, so it won’t slice the hand that launches it.

The stench from a nearby chicken-processing plant wafts over the alfalfa field. “Let’s go ahead and tell it to land,” Miser says to Johnson. After the deputy sheriff clicks on the laptop, the Falcon swoops lower, releases a neon orange parachute, and drifts gently to the ground, just yards from the spot Johnson clicked on. “The Raven can’t do that,” Miser says proudly.

A dozen years ago only two communities cared much about drones. One was hobbyists who flew radio-controlled planes and choppers for fun. The other was the military, which carried out surveillance missions with unmanned aircraft like the General Atomics Predator.

Then came 9/11, followed by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and drones rapidly became an essential tool of the U.S. armed forces. The Pentagon armed the Predator and a larger unmanned surveillance plane, the Reaper, with missiles, so that their operators—sitting in offices in places like Nevada or New York—could destroy as well as spy on targets thousands of miles away. Aerospace firms churned out a host of smaller drones with increasingly clever computer chips and keen sensors—cameras but also instruments that measure airborne chemicals, pathogens, radioactive materials.

The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002. They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be “the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.”

today, at least 50 other countries have drones, and some, notably China, Israel, and Iran, have their own manufacturers,” says the article.

“Aviation firms—as well as university and government researchers—are designing a flock of next-generation aircraft, ranging in size from robotic moths and hummingbirds to Boeing’s Phantom Eye, a hydrogen-fueled behemoth with a 150-foot wingspan that can cruise at 65,000 feet for up to four days.”

brotherAnd you thought Big Brother was scary …

Jon Newton — myblogdammit

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