Thursday, October 9, 2014

Drone Brother is Watching You

The above graphic is from DeviantArt.

They are watching, you know.


"They." The ones that conspiracy theorists always point towards. "They" killed Kennedy. "They" conceal the truth about the UFO crash at Roswell. "They" are putting Fleetwood Mac back on tour. You can feel "they" out there, right? Watching you?

Now they're watching you with drones. Yeah, those small, unmanned, robotic aircraft carrying cameras. The ostensible purpose for the fleets of these things that already exist in places like Miami is "safety." The drones can carry out tasks such as monitoring traffic, serving as "eyes in the sky" in the event of a disaster, and monitoring for crimes. Not everyone is happy about this development, arguing that this is adding to an overreach of "the powers that be." After all, many cities in Britain and the United States already have Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras positioned in strategic locations. These cameras that feed in to a (or several) central monitoring station(s) at the police department watch for, again, criminal acts or even mere infractions such as the running of red lights.

While justification for this sense of paranoia has its varying degrees of merit, I saw something in personal technology that made me think about this issue in a new light. A tiny drone named Nixie has been developed.  It weighs less than a tenth of a pound and sits on a strap on your wrist. Flick it into the air and it deploys into a quadcopter aircraft that is equipped with a camera. The idea, I guess, is to have the drone capture HD images and send them to your smartphone while you can be active doing something else. I suppose one could get the ultimate selfie this way.

So my line of thinking is this: if this technology already exists for the consumer market, what do law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies have at their disposal? I do not say that out of any kind of paranoia (well maybe just a little) but rather a fascinated speculation. Just how "tiny" can drone technology go? Senator Dianne Feinstein said that she encountered a drone "inches from her face" outside the window of her home. This should give us pause for perhaps a few reasons.

The drone in question was obviously large enough to be seen. What about those such as Nixie that wouldn't necessarily be readily observable? Also, if a high-ranking government official is being monitored, what's happening to the rest of us? In the case of Feinstein, the drone originated from protest kids outside her house. Or were they?? Okay, okay, enough of the conspiracy talk.

There have been "voices of reason" amid all the frisson and chatter that drones will soon cloud our skies, watching our every movement or just delivering my order from Amazon. Several obstacles exist that would need amelioration before we'd ever see that. Among those barriers are FAA regulations for what is already crowded airspace. That and as mentioned previously, many are against drones by nature and have even fired shots at them (I'm waiting for the first conspiracy nut to take one out with a homemade rocket launcher.)

That said, a drone of Nixie's miniature size would not have those problems. They might well be in the air right now and we would not necessarily be any the wiser.

For me, my immediate interest in the matter has to do with UFO investigation. To the public at-large, many will see a drone and be convinced they're encountering a UFO, thus instigating more wild goose chases. One such sighting was recently posted to The Black Vault. While the verdict is still out on that case, I can't shake my gut feeling that it's just a drone. A previously not-known-to-the-public drone, but a drone nonetheless. A sighting of a UFO over protesters in Hong Kong has also garnered a bit of attention. Video and photographic experts are tending towards "drone" in that case as well. Between drones and video editing software, it's going to get even more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to UFO sightings and that has me quite concerned. Far more so than I am with all of this piddly "civil liberties" business, anyway.

I kid.

Sort of.

It is true that surveillance drones are something that not even George Orwell imagined. At the same time, I think that Orwell might've gotten a perverse sort of enjoyment out of the idea of an autonomous device only slightly larger than your wrist that can fly and send live video of you back to the high muckymucks. It's almost perfect.

I still think I want a Nixie. Mostly because flinging my own autonomous camera drone into the air to seek out its target would pretty much be the closest I'll ever get to being Batman.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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