experts agree, when it comes to convenience in intelligence-gathering and targeted
killing, no other developing technology is as promising as the Unmanned Aerial
Vehicle (UAV). Widely predicted to be a major growth sector in the insanely
huge-yet-growing military-industrial complex, These pilotless planes have taken
the dirty work out of warfare. In addition to reducing war casualties and further
removing Americans from the tragic human consequences of their foreign policy
vision, these remote vehicles have done the impossible: turned a generation
of listless video game addicts into well-prepared future warriors. Whether spying
or shooting, the average American 18-year-old has the requisite hand-eye coordination
and thumb calluses to monitor and operate one or more of these military droids
with grace and efficiency, all while instant-messaging “omg this Roxorz” to
his buddies back home.
those UAVs are pretty useful. In fact, their uses are not limited
to simple war and espionage. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department,
for instance, will begin using the Octotron SkySeer
model, a drone about the size of a remote controlled model plane,
next month. Luckily, L.A. residents needn’t fear Big Brother-style
monitoring, though—because it’s already happening. Just ask
LASD Commander Charles Heal, as the BBC did: “There’s no place
in an urban environment that you can go to right now that you’re
not being looked at with a video camera and you have nothing
to fear from your own government - you are being watched by
your fellow citizens,” said Heal.
Of course, L.A. law enforcement
is always on the cutting edge of innovation in civil rights abuses, but the
con-trail doesn’t end there. According to Declan McCullagh of CNET news, “one
North Carolina county is using a UAV equipped with low-light and infrared cameras
to keep watch on its citizens. The aircraft has been dispatched to monitor gatherings
of motorcycle riders at the Gaston County fairgrounds from just a few hundred
feet in the air--close enough to identify faces--and many more uses, such as
the aerial detection of marijuana fields, are planned.”
what if these 4-pound, six-foot wingspan flyers are too unwieldy for the task
at hand? Look no further, my friend than Israel Aircraft Industries'
Mosquito 1 micro UAV. Measuring in at nine ounces and a 13-inch wingspan,
this plucky little robo-spy is cherished by the Israeli military for its ability
to fly through doors and windows, helping to identify targets in the Palestinian
territories. Plus, it’s virtually invisible at low altitudes! My only question:
how much are they, and where can I get one? Talk about the perfect stocking-stuffer
for the stalker on your Christmas list.
the other side of the size spectrum, the unmanned Boeing
X-45 has been designed for the US Air Force at a cost
of $256 million to drop 3,000 pounds worth of bombs on combat
targets. Throw in a few thousand little unmanned tanks, and
the American casualty figures from our next invasion might consist
of the few heart attacks suffered by keyboard-clacking remote
pilots who ingest one too many bags of Funyuns from the office
vending machine. At a price tag of 10 to 15 million bucks each,
however, these planes will be out of reach to all but the wealthiest
remote-driven airplanes are cool, but there’s one glaring feature missing from
these gadgets: hovering capability. So where are the tiny unmanned helicopters?
Well, they’re working on it, but the effort suffered a setback when the Israeli
firm Steadicopter had its prototype burgled in a Hollywood-style
industrial espionage heist. The thirty-pound prototype was the first to succeed
in independent flight without remote control, something other firms had yet
to achieve. I’ve got to say, I really love this crime. It makes all of those
silly action movie stereotypes—the super-stealthy, black-clad professional burglar,
the twisted, murderous industrialist, the criminal scientist—a bit less absurd.
At any rate, depending on what defense contractor or hostile nation is currently
hard at work reverse-engineering designs from the prototype at the moment, this
technology will emerge sooner or later.
of things we usually only see in movies, nothing is more likely to make young
men want to join the military than the Gryphon Single Man Flying Wing.
Originally developed for the German army as a glider that could carry a paratrooper
32 lateral miles from a 33,000-foot jump, the new model, powered by two 15-pound
turbojets, can get you 124 miles away from a 13,000-foot hop. Needless to say,
this is incredibly cool, especially if you bring your iPod along for the ride.
In addition, the psychological advantage of invaders who literally fly into
town like a horde of Batman clones can’t be overstated. Then again, jumping
out of an airplane with a half gallon of jet fuel on your person could lead
to unpleasant complications.
Other, more dire possible
problems stemming from the exponential uptick in the number of contraptions
marring the sky include possible mid-air collisions between UAVs and passenger
flights, or MAVs. Such problems have been reported in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Obviously, there aren’t enough air traffic controllers in the world to monitor
the thousands of friendly drones soon to monitoring our daily activities, but
I’m sure we’ll figure out some kind of solution after a mere handful of fatal
crashes. Onward and upward!