Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Dark future of Drones

Drone technology has advanced over the years, since the birth of Unmanned aerial vehicles UAV's in 1959 to replace pilots and preventing loss of life. Again proving useful from the cold war, Vietnam right up to the Gulf war, it was recognized as a cheaper option to use. This eventually developed into a General Atomics MQ-! Predator which utilized AGM 114 Hellfire air to ground missiles. The UAV became a UCAV unmanned combat air vehicle.
 The drone program is hotly contested in Pakistan. Most Pakistanis feel the strikes violate the country’s sovereignty and kill innocent civilians. The U.S. maintains they are directed against militants and necessary to combat groups like Al Qaeda.
American drones fired a flurry of missiles in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan Sunday, killing a total of 10 suspected militants, Pakistani officials said. In the first strike, missiles fired from unmanned American spy planes hit two vehicles near the Afghan border, killing at least seven militants.

Meanwhile the Pentagon has had defense spending spree this week, $24.5 billion over five days on defense contracts including $531 million worth of drones, a situation requiring more from lawmakers, Congressman Michael McCaul told Homeland Security. "General Atomics, the people behind the wildly successful Predator and Reaper drones, just scored two huge contracts this week," reports Business Insider Military & Defense on Friday." One contract is $411 million for Gray Eagle systems, a derivative of the Predator drone.
The second contract is for $120.6 million and will buy MQ-9 Reaper spares for the Air Force. They'll also get ground support systems and spares."

The European Commission aims to spend £260 million on its ‘Eurosur’ project, which includes a plan for surveillance drones to patrol the Mediterranean coast. At the same time, several schemes are under way in Britain, aiming to develop civilian roles for aircraft based on the killer drones hunting Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Police in England have used uav's under trail and even apprehended criminals, because of the unique viewing angle of the drone it is easy to pursue a criminal and arrest him.

While, the Interior Ministry of Russia first deployed drones in July 2006 at the time of the G8 Summit in St Petersburg. The model in use was Zala 421-04M: a small plane with a wingspan of just over 1.5m, weighing about 5kgs and able to fly at 3000m for 90 minutes. The Zala is equipped with thermal vision, can plot map grid references of objects below and transmits video- and photographic images live to an operator’s screen. The field tests were obviously considered successful. According to the accounts of human rights campaigners, hundreds of activists intending to protest during the G8 summit were unable to reach Petersburg because they were detained on the outskirts of the city.

Using GPS tracking it is now possible to programme a UAV drone to fly out and identify a person, even to scan and identify the right person to find their location. In this case the technology is a friendly way of scanning the right person with a GPS tracker so that a drone can find him and scan his body for 3D printing avoiding the need to wait in a line.

There was a number of fears that the use of drones at the Olympics could be hacked which could crash into the crowd and further research from the University of Texas found that a Drones with a on board GPS system could be compromised and effectively be used as a weapon to crash into a populated area. The military may have an encrypted navigational system but, lead researcher Todd Humphreys says that no system is safe. Terrorist could have the intelligence to hack even a proposed civilian fleet of unmanned FED EX cargo plane drones, and use then as missiles on the public.

The future seems clear that UAV technology will be a tool for the government and local law enforcement. With the use of face recognition it might be possible to recognize certain people with criminal records. Also with the same software as Apples new mapping system it could be possible to render a 3D representation of a crowd of protesters once a fleet of multiple drones have taken pictures of the area. The increasing numbers of drones and the willingness of governments to use them on their own citizens, has given rise to public fear of a totalitarian rule. The use of onboard weapons on military drones allows a convenient way of disposing a hostile enemy, though on civilian ground a drone could be adapted for non lethal alternatives. Its hard to say if passive surveillance is the future of law enforcement, it's clear that people will be more careful knowing that someone could be watch you any where in the world from now on.

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