Last spring, a Seattle woman reported that some guy was flying a drone over her yard.
It was, she wrote, a “warm spring day,” and she at first believed that the buzzing sound she was hearing was someone doing yardwork. But soon she looked out her third-story window, and saw “a drone hovering a few feet away.”
The drone’s operator was outside on the sidewalk. The woman’s husband went outside to ask him to quit and he refused, arguing that “it is legal for him to fly an aerial drone over our yard and adjacent to our windows.”
Whether he was right about that is unclear. What kind of drone was it? Who was the operator? Was he taking pictures of the inside of her home or of the public street?
These are questions for law enforcement and courts to sort out, I said in a piece about the incident. In the meantime, though, many people wrote to me to say: To heck with that. I wouldn’t wait for any cops. I’d shoot that thing right out of the sky myself.
Well, Phil Steel of Deer Trail, Colorado, thinks that is a great idea.
Read more. [Image: Phil Steel]
We can talk about regulatory hurdles. We can talk about delivery zone issues. We can talk about cost and weight and range and reliability, about lawsuits and criminality. We should, when we’re talking about Amazon’s Prime Air, talk about all of those things. You know what we should also be talking about, though? Birds.
Read more. [Image: UMD Robotics screenshot via UPI]
Coming soon: swarms of mechanized eagles.
Read more. [Image: Mr. T in DC/flickr]
With no consensus on terms of art, the government can obfuscate the moral issues around them.Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
The most ardent case against drone strikes is that they kill innocents. John Brennan has argued that claims of collateral carnage are exaggerated. In June 2011, he famously declared that there had not been “a single collateral death” due to a drone strike in the previous 12 months.
Almost no one believes this. Brennan himself later amended his statement, saying that in the previous 12 months, the United States had found no “credible evidence” that any civilians had been killed in drone strikes outside Afghanistan and Iraq. (I am using the word civilians here to mean “noncombatants.”) A fair interpretation is that drones unfailingly hit their targets, and so long as the U.S. government believes its targets are all legitimate, the collateral damage is zero. But drones are only as accurate as the intelligence that guides them. Even if the machine is perfect, it’s a stretch to assume perfection in those who aim it.
For one thing, our military and intelligence agencies generously define combatant to include any military-age male in the strike zone. And local press accounts from many of the blast sites have reported dead women and children. Some of that may be propaganda, but not all of it is. No matter how precisely placed, when a 500-pound bomb or a Hellfire missile explodes, there are sometimes going to be unintended victims in the vicinity.
Charles Krauthammer once predicted that the first American to shoot down a domestic drone would be a folk hero. Phillip Steele, a resident of Deer Trail, Colorado, wants to enable that hero. As the FAA loosens regulations on domestic drone use, Steele has submitted an ordinance to his town’s board of trustees that would create America’s most unusual hunting license: It would permit hunting drones and confer a bounty for every one brought down. Only 12-gauge shotguns could be used as weapons, so the drones would have a sporting chance.
Wouldn’t the hunters be breaking federal law?
Of course. I wouldn’t be surprised if the feds are already watching Steele as a result of his rabble-rousing. But he isn’t dumb. “This is a very symbolic ordinance,” he told a local TV station. “Basically, I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are heading that way …. It’s asserting our right and drawing a line in the sand.” Actually, it’s more like drawing a line in the clouds. But you get the idea.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
When it comes to drones, men are from Mars and women are from some other planet not named after the Roman God of perpetual war.
In the face of budget cuts, the Pentagon prepared to cancel some projects, including the RQ-4B Block 30 drone. It told Congress the drone was too costly and problematic. Then the company behind the drone talked to Congress.
Read more. [Image: Chris Kaufman/Associated Press]
No, really, this garment might fool the infrared cameras mounted on drones.
[Image: Adam Harvey]
Directed by Jan Minol and produced by Samadhi Production, the video features a faceless skater on a nighttime journey through the splendid city. Suspended from a remote-control helicopter, the camera records the skater’s flips and tricks from above the fray. Illuminating the board from below with a blue halo, Jam Copters and crew minimize surrounding urban light to give the video a ghostly feel.