Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Rapidly Emerging Drone Technology Industry: Dream Technology or Orwellian Nightmare?

By Sarah Dee
February 27, 2013
Regardless of the controversy that surrounds drone warfare use by the U.S. abroad, technology in the field of drones, also called Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAV‘s) or Micro Air Vehicles (MAV‘s), is growing at a rapid rate.
The government is already working to develop MAV’s that would mimic birds and insects in their size and movements.
These mini-drones that masquerade as creatures from the kingdom of nature could be let loose on an urban center and within minutes set-up a communication and surveillance network rivaling the most advanced its human counter-parts could achieve in any spy movie.
According to an article at The Daily Mail:
“The U.S. Air Force is developing tiny unmanned drones that will fly in swarms, hover like bees, crawl like spiders and even sneak up on unsuspecting targets and execute them with lethal precision.
The Air Vehicles Directorate, a research arm of the Air Force, has released a computer-animated video outlining the the future capabilities of Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs). The project promises to revolutionize war by down-sizing the combatants.
‘MAVs will become a vital element in the ever-changing war-fighting environment and will help ensure success on the battlefield of the future,’ the narrator intones. ‘Unobtrusive, pervasive, lethal – Micro Air Vehicles, enhancing the capabilities of the future war fighter .’”
The project is fittingly seated at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, where aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers, originated.
But just as the Wright brothers and car magnate Henry Ford’s new industries shut down out-dated technologies, new drone technology could put fighter jets out of business.
National Geographic reported that:
“The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002.…Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank
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 .”
Fighter jets soon to be left in the junkyard with the horse-and-buggy, and granpaw’s old VCR? These times they are a’changin.
The Role of the FAA
Apparently American skies could have been filled with UAV’s for years now, but for the stringent rules imposed by the FAA keeping them out of U.S. airspace.
There are only a few locations now nationally that allow UAV to fly without direct human supervision, much to hobbyist and engineer’s chagrin. One of these locations is in Costa Mesa County, Colorado, near the now infamous Aurora, CO.
The National Geographic article also explained that:
“Miser is a former Air Force captain who worked on military drones before quitting in 2007 to found his own company in Aurora, Colorado. The Falcon has an eight-foot wingspan but weighs just 9.5 pounds.
Powered by an electric motor, it carries two swiveling cameras, visible and infrared, and a GPS-guided autopilot. Sophisticated enough that it can’t be exported without a U.S. government license, the Falcon is roughly comparable, Miser says, to the Raven, a hand-launched military drone–but much cheaper. He plans to sell two drones and support equipment for about the price of a squad car.”
“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.
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.”
Big Brother’s Watching: Constant Surveillance the Future Norm?
Though their use has been primarily military in recent years, but UAV applications are endless and hungry inventors are ready for this emerging market to take flight.
The National Geographic article continued:
“One of those entrepreneurs is Donald Smith, a bearish former Navy aircraft technician with ginger hair and a goatee. His firm, UA Vision, manufactures a delta-wing drone called the Spear.
Made of polystyrene foam wrapped in woven carbon fiber or other fabrics, the Spear comes in several sizes; the smallest has a four-foot wingspan and weighs less than four pounds.
It resembles a toy B-1 bomber. Smith sees it being used to keep track of pets, livestock, wildlife, even Alzheimer’s patients–anything or anyone equipped with radio-frequency identification tags that can be read remotely.”
The tiny robots have many beneficial applications, but if this technology flew into the wrong hands the possibilities are rather chilling.
Zennie, M. (2013, February 19). Death from a swarm of tiny drones: U.s. air force releases terrifying video of tiny flybots that can can hover, stalk and even kill targets. The Daily Mail.
Horgan, J. (2013, March). Unmanned flight: The drones come home. National Geographic Magazine.
Read more articles by this author HERE
Sarah Dee is a University of Texas graduate and animal lover who enjoys writing, reading, and living in the Lone Star State. She is also a guest co-host on Truth Exposed Radio Show and an investigative journalist for a popular alternative news website.

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