March 11, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
*Today, (1/26/2015) an unidentified drone apparently landed on the White House premises. This set-off concerns about hacking drones and using our own drones against us for terrorism. Below is what I wrote back in march 2014 about drone wars and this previously unthinkable scenario:
It’s a warm summer’s evening in July. You’ve tossed some seasoned steaks on the grill, the drinks are chilled, the kids are (thankfully) playing nice for a change and now it’s time for you to chill as well. Maybe, you’ll try out that Martha Stewart Hammock you purchased online from Amazon. Yes, life is good and all is as it should be.
But wait. You hear a low, buzzing sound interrupting your summer serenity. Is it that no good neighbor kid with one of his remote controlled choppers? Nope. Look, higher up in the air, is it a bird? No. A plane? Not quite. A giant mosquito. No. But you are getting closer.
You spot what is in reality an Unmanned Air Drone (UAD). Before you can grab your Canon One-Step digital camera and memorialize this moment for when you’ll all look back and laugh, the UAD starts to flash red. An instant later there is a bright light, a loud popping sound like a hundred champagne bottles being uncorked at once (no, not your stash, you had PBR six-packs on ice) and before you know it, your steaks are burnt to a crisp. As well as your $1,000 Gas Grill, your sun-deck, all your lawn furniture and the all pine-wood Doggie house you made for Bruno, the family bull-dog.
While still in shock (hey, those were expensive T-Bone steaks, after all) the UAD stealthily swoops in for up-close scanning, thermal and bio-outputs surveillance. Apparently, satisfied with the Intel it has acquired and the message imparted by its warning shots unloaded in your backyard it then ascends back into the clouds. Faster than you can say “1984” the Drone has vanished. Maybe this was all some bad dream, right?
But the steaks aren’t even fit for Bruno and your backyard has small craters still emanating vapors of smoke.
What in the name of the Terminator just happened?
Outrageous, right? Outlandish. Are you certain?
Don’t be. Unmanned Militarized Aircraft Systems or Drones are no longer just some futuristic vision imagined by author George Orwell in his conspiracy classic “1984,” first published in 1949. In his vision, unmanned air drones hover over a broken population conducting surveillance, monitoring and tracking every word and thought from its people. Perpetually probing for any seeds of discontent and dissidence.
Today, circa 2014, his fears of a society gone mad with paranoia, control and high-technology to do its bidding may soon not just be thrilling science fiction.
The fact is UADs have become a fully integrated part of our military defense and surveillance system. Drones have identified, targeted and destroyed assets, both material and human abroad. Praised by supporters as more efficient and lower risk than deploying real, live humans, UADs are here to stay.
And, if their advocates have their way, they’ll multiply faster than mosquitoes on a hot summer’s day.
And here’s the potentially even more frightening part of this particular non-fictional story. Drones are becoming increasingly more integrated for domestic use. Right here in the USA. Coming to a backyard near you soon.
Actually, Drones are already being used by the FBI for domestic surveillance. The Director of the FBI, Mr. Robert Mueller, recently testified before Congress that Yes, they are being used, Yes, there are plans to increase their use across the US and No, there are no regulations or privacy policies in place at this moment.
Military strategists love Unmanned Armed Drones (UAD). And why not? There’s no putting real, live humans in harm’s way. They are difficult to detect, even with radar. They are increasingly accurate in identifying and targeting assets with lethal force. And if surveillance is your goal, UADs can fly, hover, and send back Intel photos that would make the “Mars Rover” blush a crimson red.
And support for expanding the use of Drones, both abroad and back home is growing. Stealthy, sleek little UADs. Worth every penny says the Department of Defense (DOD). In this era of budget cuts and huge deficits, we should be allocating more money into increasing our “fleet” of autonomous, armed drones with on-board artificial intelligence, says the Secretary of Defense.
In other words, building and deploying more automated drones that can acquire real-time information, synthesize and process this information and make a range of nano-second decisions to ensure “it” locks-on and destroys its target with precision and lethal force.
Of course, if the target is mistakenly your gas-grill, the dog house or maybe one of your kids, well, don’t blame the drone, its only as good as its programmer. You know, without all of that pesky moral ambiguity to weigh it down.
Good little drone, good boy, come here and get your treat of discarded micro-chips.
I know, I know, I’m playing the part of Chicken-Little and wrongly telling everyone that the sky is falling with drones when it’s simply not true.
These Drones will only be used against the enemy you say. There won’t be tragic mistakes. And any slight deviation from its target will be acceptable “collateral damage.” A small price to pay in a dangerous world where America’s enemies are seemingly everywhere, you tell me. Even in our backyard. Oh, that issue again.
Recently, at a national conference of state legislatures, the issue of using unmanned air drones by state and local governmental officials to do a wide range of tasks in our, well, state and local areas, came up. Seems that the business of using drones is potentially a multi-billion dollar industry. Of course it is. And a number of national and even international conglomerates are lobbying hard to ensure that legislation opens up the doors fully for a domestic privatized fleet of unmanned air drones to “man” the skies.
And what will these drones do?
Maybe the better question is, what will they not do?
Everything from surveillance of terrorist and other domestic criminal suspects, disabling these suspects (non-lethal, of course), helping law enforcement officials cover terrain and find lost children, track and monitor traffic, identify suspicious patterns of thermal heat, “scout” farmland and crops, even aid in predicting destructive weather patterns.
Why, if Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos has its way, Drones will even be delivering that hammock your bought online right to your doorstep. Well, maybe to your neighbor’s doorstep. But hey, the mail-carrier messes up now and again too, right?
So, while The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) crafts rules to fully and legally integrate drones into our domestic airspace by 2015, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation scrambles to “catch-up” with this awe-inspiring technology and its use, and state legislatures hear well-financed private interests push for more drones and not so well-financed privacy advocates ring the “1984” alarm bell, the drone-makers keep cranking out more UADs every day.
But what about our privacy as US citizens, you say? It’s one thing if these dang drones are hovering somewhere in Kabul and target an evil-doer but here, in the good old US of A?
Well, like the Great Oz, the US Supreme Court has spoken. The majority of black-robed deep-thinkers recently ruled that when it comes to Domestic Air Drones (DAD, reassuring, yes?) there is no clear violation of our 4th Amendment privacy rights. You know, searches and seizures without a warrant.
So, let the Drone Games begin.
Oh, yes, in case you are wondering, concerns have been raised by opponents that there could conceivably be an instance where a domestic armed drone’s AI was hacked so that its actions were being controlled by say a hostile in, oh, I don’t know, Kabul.
Think about it. An armed, hostile drone, zipping round US domestic airspace acquiring and destroying American targets.
What fun. Just like a big, global video-game, but real.
But I tend to worry about worst case scenarios. So, you should probably just relax. Federal and state officials say that such an instance is not very likely. They say that soon policies will be in place and this drone technology will not turn against us. And that safeguards will be in place so that drones will not be “hijacked” by terrorists, domestic or foreign.
Whew. Okay. Well, if they say so. Now, where’s my hammock? That overpriced Amazon drone should have been here by now.
You just can’t get good help these days. Human or automated.