Monday, July 2, 2012

Aerial Drones, Part II


Can you believe it?

 The FAA now claims frustration with the plethora 
of "unauthorized" drones available for purchase via the Intrawebz? 

A few weeks ago, I posted via the Betrovia blog my comments about law enforcement agencies here in the US using aerial drones, like the Predator that has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years. When I posted those comments, I felt that law enforcement agencies should be severely restricted in their use of aerial drones. Basically, a sheriff's department should be required to procure a judge's warrant before being allowed to deploy a drone to "spy" on, for example, a suspected meth lab manager.

Since posting those comments, I have to say that I am even more opposed to law enforcement deploying drones even if a warrant has been given.

In 1997, Half-Life, the computer game, sucked away many precious hours of my free time (and even some hours that weren't actually "free"). And in 2004, Half-Life 2, its long-awaited sequel, was released. Much of that following summer and fall was devoted to sinking more time into the dystopic, alien-infested universe of Half-Life.

One of the more-interesting aspects of Half-Life 2 was the inclusion of aerial drones. Basically, there were two kinds/types of these flying robots in the game:

1. Flashers: annoying little machines that sported an extremely-bright strobe light with which to attempt to blind the player
2. Man Hacks - a more-insidious version of the flashers armed with a small blade which spun as the drone attempted to attack or "hack" the player

In every chapter of Half-Life 2, the player was forced to learn how to maneuver around flashers and man hacks. Successful progression through the game required mastering this skill.

Within the Half-Life universe, it is understood that the technology required for designing and building these drones came from an alien world. But because the technology is not that far from what is currently available to our military, someone playing Half-Life today would not have to suspend much -- if any -- disbelief to get sucked into that mesmerizing but highly-dangerous world.

So what do flashers and man hacks have to do with the aerial drones of 2012?

A quick Google search of the Intrawebz reveals that the technology behind the inner workings of aerial drones is not restricted to the militaries of the superpowers -- not in the least!

One website,, contains a wealth of information on how to design an aerial drone, how to acquire the hardware, and software, to build one, and even how to circumvent, legally or otherwise, law enforcement's attempts to curtail the utilization of such contraptions.

Today, July 2, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International  published their "code of conduct" for the use of aerial drones. Here are a few highlights from that publication:

"We will not operate UAS in a manner that presents undue risk to persons or property on the surface or in the air.”
“We will establish contingency plans for all anticipated off‐nominal events and share them openly with all appropriate authorities.”
“We will establish contingency plans for all anticipated off‐nominal events and share them openly with all appropriate authorities.”

I enthusiastically applaud the AUVSI for their noble response to the unveiled threat to a free people's way of life.

But at the same time, I shudder to think of how closely current technology resembles what was only a computer game less than a decade ago.

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