For Science Fiction Writers: Facts about Drones


This information is from Electronic Frontier Foundation. Any emphasis is theirs:

These records, received as a result of EFF’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), come from state and local law enforcement agencies, universities and—for the first time—three branches of the U.S. military: the Air Force, Marine Corps, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

The records show that the Air Force has been testing out a bunch of different drone types, from the smaller, hand-launched Raven, Puma and Wasp drones designed by Aerovironment in Southern California, to the much larger Predator and Reaper drones responsible for civilian and foreign military deaths abroad. The Marine Corps is also testing drones, though it chose to redact so much of the text from its records that we still don’t know much about its programs.

Perhaps the scariest is the technology carried by a Reaper drone the Air Force is flying near Lincoln, Nevada and in areas of California and Utah. This drone uses “Gorgon Stare” technology, which Wikipedia defines as “a spherical array of nine cameras attached to an aerial drone . . . capable of capturing motion imagery of an entire city.” This imagery “can then be analyzed by humans or an artificial intelligence, such as the Mind’s Eye project” being developed by DARPA. If true, this technology takes surveillance to a whole new level.

While LIDAR can be used to create high-resolution images of the earth’s surface, it is also used in high tech police speed guns—begging the question of whether drones will soon be used for minor traffic violations.

It’s not a far-fetched idea to use drones to replace the traffic cop. Drone manufacturer AeroVironment offers a few suggestions of their own for drone usage:

The Future is Unmanned

AeroVironment is a world leader in the design and manufacture of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). Since the introduction of Pointer in 1986, considered by many to be the first true small UAS for military use, AeroVironment’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems have supported U.S. and allied Armed Forces with reconnaissance data, helped monitor forest fires, and penetrated and analyzed volcanic plumes.

UAS have more than proven their value in the military world. Today, UAS are utilized for applications closer to home. Whether monitoring our country’s borders, protecting its citizens, monitoring pipeline and utility assets or finding those who are lost and in distress, small UAS can be launched quickly, day or night, to provide precise situational awareness whenever and wherever they are needed.

Qube is a device already in use by police departments. AeroVironment offers suggestions for its use:

Qube® is a rugged and reliable small Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) specifically targeting the needs of first responders. The packaged system fits easily in the trunk of a car, and can be assembled and ready for flight in less than five minutes to provide a rapidly deployable eye in the sky, transmitting live video directly to the operator at a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.

Small UAS like the Qube system can provide valuable capabilities to a broad range of industries and applications:

Public Safety – transported in the trunk of a police vehicle, the back of a fire truck or carried in a backpack, small UAS can provide immediate situational awareness to first responders, giving them a birds-eye view of the situation, day or night, to save lives and protect property.

Wildlife and Environmental Monitoring – already used to monitor sensitive wildlife areas and populations, small UAS are increasingly providing a means of collecting important information in inaccessible areas to facilitate more effective resource management.

Infrastructure Management – dams, pipelines, offshore oil platforms, microwave transmission towers, power plants and ports are some examples of large, sometimes remote infrastructure that can be accessed easily and safely by small UAS to provide color and thermal video for rapid visual inspection.

Scientific Research – peering into a volcano is made easier and safer with small UAS, and is just one example of the new ways this technology is helping scientists gain a better understanding of the way the earth and its biosphere operate.

You can see what Qube looks like by clicking the link: http://www.avinc.com/uas/small_uas/qube/

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