Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cuban Drones to Monitor Florida

Surprising headline isn't it? While it may sound ridiculous, most large unmanned aerial vehicles are based loosely on the U2 spy plane designed over 60 years ago, and carry cameras not much better than the best off the shelf cameras. In other words, compared to a nuclear device, or large quantities of chemical weapons, it would really only take a dozen half decent engineers to build and fly a large unmanned aerial vehicle.

Obviously the title of this is false. There are no foreign drones monitoring the United States. A NPR Intellegence Squared US debate on drones that I only mildly listened to got me thinking. One part in particular was to the effect of, "what happens when North Korea sends drones over South Korea?" Or what happens when anyone sends drones over the US? The short answer is, we will shoot it down. The longer answer is those people in Asia who have been or have family that has been on the wrong end of a missile fired from nowhere would probably gladly leave their home and go to a safer place, if they could afford to. They didn't choose to be born into poverty. They didn't choose to be born in a country that is politically and militarily unstable.

I think the concept of unmanned combat capable machines, like terminator oddly, is only comforting when you are the only side that has that capability. Given that I am an aerospace engineer, it scares me too because conditions do not have to be perfect to develop this technology unlike nuclear, chemical or biological technologies.

The wrap up is, I think it is great people can be tracked and observed. Jay Leno had a joke a few years ago that his whole life was filmed by NBC for insurance purposes, which is a pretty good way to prove one isn't committing crimes. However, the ability to push a button from a desk at a desert base in Nevada or California and send a missile into a house in Afghanistan without the situational awareness that comes from anyone being there physically is something we really need to use with restraint. This technology is not going away and in the future more parties will have it, now is when the standards and rules are being defined. What kind of future do we want?

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