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Do it yourself air surveillance

In light of the recent killing of OBL and the use by the military of drones and other surveillance gizmos to track down where the villain was hiding out, it is worth noting that these pilot-less aircraft are not just in the hands of military people. You can get some pretty sophisticated ones via the regular commercial market, a fact that is both beguiling for aviation enthusiasts and modellists, and presumably, a bit of a concern for the military who want to keep the airspace all to itself.

Chris Anderson, head honcho at Wired, the techno magazine, has his own website devoted to the whole business of building and using the things. Anderson, of course, is also author of The Long Tail, one of those books that I need to read again.

On a related theme regarding drones, robots and high-tech in war and defence, here is another reference to a book by PW Singer, that I blogged about the other day in a piece about sea piracy.

9 comments to Do it yourself air surveillance

  • I’ve thought for a long time that sooner or later, we’re going to see a criminal, or a drug gang, or some ‘cult’ on the FBI harassment list employ radio-controlled model airplanes or helicopters to drop a live grenade into a group of SWAT goons. That will be a game changer.

  • RW

    I gave a link the other day to some of this stuff. I’m most concerned by the multicopters rather than minature conventional UAVs. These have precision manoeuvrabilityand hover capacity and really are, as Darryl says, a game changer. Far more for the bad guys than the good, alas.

    The hexacopter speed test flight in the link gave a maximum speed of 80kph (NOT a typo), in a flight lasting 10 minutes and going up to 127m. Overall these things have increasing flight time and carrying capacities, so could transport say fragmentation grenades, small canisters of sarin or contact mines to stick to say the top of the fuselage of an airliner at an airport. Almost any outdoor public or private location is potentially at risk.

    The only really game changing positive application I’ve come up with so far is for antipiracy. You could checkout nearby suspicious boats, video them and if they’re full of armed men blow them to bits. And for an actual attack a ‘copter could be on board ready on hot standby on a charging pad.

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    You can do it yourself for maybe a hundred dollars or so here.

  • J.M. Heinrichs

    Play time!


  • Dale Amon

    Building one is dead easy. I’ve wanted to play with one (sans weaponry!) for years and have not done due to lack of dosh. I’ll not go further because I have some money making ideas in the hobby market I might go after some day.

  • Mark Matis

    The assumption above that “Law Enforcement” in the US are the “good guys” may be slightly questionable.

  • Name

    Won’t work. FedGov owns the radio spectrum, and can jam both the transmission and the receiving device; can detect, trace and disable any transmitter from great distances. Any attempt at producing an un-jammable device gets you thrown in prison for violating FCC Rule Part 15: “The devices must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation”

  • monkeyfan

    Game changer indeed. A few hundred thousand $’s and some amateur experimentation nets you a swarm of GPS-guided pipe bombs, or a few RC single shot firearm platforms.

    The utility of ubiquitous civilian GPS will be destroyed after the first such attack.

    Then it will devolve to WIFI control…Inertial guidance and/or topographical recognition…RDF…Auto pilot w/ laser painted targeting…

    Goodbye to unregulated cool tech in civilian hands and say hello to an officially degraded radio spectrum.

  • Paul Marks

    No doubt many (indeed most) Federal law enforcement people are not bad people – but they work for the Justice Department (or some other Federal department) and that means they are under A.G. Holder.

    Mr Holder is utterly corrupt. There is no point using soft language – he is a scumbag.

    And the heads of the other Federal deparments are much the same.

    This most have an effect on how these organizations work (the pressures ordinary officers are put under).

    “Who is in charge” does matter – especially over time.