Drones For Safe Passage? 'Why Not?' Ald. Cardenas Asks
By Casey Cora on August 27, 2013 6:50pm | Updated on August 27, 2013 6:50pm
MCKINLEY PARK — If a Chicago alderman has his way, the city could someday see drones buzzing through the skies as part of an effort to keep students safe as they walk to school.
"We could use the help.!” Ald. George Cardenas (12th) tweeted, along with an article from The Telegraph outlining ways the remote-controlled, unmanned aerial vehicles — commonly known as drones — have been used outside of military actions. “Why not use drones in safe passage.??"
During a follow-up phone interview, Cardenas said "there is no doubt technology is migrating from military use. ... It's going to take time to find those uses in an urban environment. It is, however, the future and I think people will want to take that leap. I think eventually we’re going to have to look at this technology."
But Matt Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska, believes using drones to patrol the city's streets isn't a good idea. Waite is involved in an effort that uses drones in news gathering and documents the experiments by the school's Drone Journalism Lab on a blog.
“There’s still a big safety issue, especially with the small ones," he said. "They have a tendency to crash from time to time. So now you have something with spinning blades over the top of children that could fall out of the sky. That would seem unwise.”
Waite also said the tactic would face major regulatory hurdles. Public agencies wishing to use a drone must obtain what’s known as a Certificate of Authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration, which can take years, he said.
And there are legal questions.
"What happens if a camera catches kids committing crimes? Is that admissible in court? Do police have to get a warrant to watch these kids? Can you suspend a kid for acting a fool on their walk?" he asked.
Add to that concern about restricted airspace within the city and its two major airports, and Waite said that's "a tall, tall order to overcome."
Still, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International says drones can be a boon to law enforcement agencies by keeping officers out of dangerous situations, helping with search and rescue missions, responding to natural disasters and saving on the bottom line. The group claims drones can operate for as little as $25 to $75 per hour, which is far less than the $400-per-hour cost of using a manned helicopter.
“The technology could certainly be used to help keep children safe. Importantly, however, it is up to local leaders to determine whether this is an appropriate use in their community," said AUVSI spokeswoman Melanie Hinton.
Still, the suggestion to use drones from Cardenas drew immediate backlash on social media.
"Did 12th Ward Alderman @georgeacardenas just advocate that Military Drones be used on CPS safe passage routes?" tweeted Martin Ritter, a member of the Local School Council at Whitney Young High School and a Chicago Teachers Union organizer. Ritter later tweeted, "Flying tanks are not the answer."
Melissa Lindberg said over Twitter that Cardenas "just proved he's unsuitable to hold elected office: drones in the city? Gee, what could possibly go wrong?" And another Twitter user said, "Interesting how there's willingness to spend on anything BUT schools."
But Cardenas said critics weren't considering the non-military, public safety use of the devices.
And he admitted he might've been too quick firing off his Tuesday morning tweet.
"You know me, sometimes my brain gets ahead of myself. I read things and it intrigues me on the possibilities," he said. "It's a technology with a lot of potential and it could be really interesting in years to come. So yeah, I’m going to throw it out there."
http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130827 ... denas-asks
Drone U Podcast: Drones, the Future of War, and the Law
By Timothy Reuter and Nabiha Syed | Posted Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, at 1:48 PM
Every Wednesday on Future Tense, we will highlight a talk from a leading thinker from Drone U speaking on the topic of what our drone future may look like. Drone U is produced in cooperation with the New America Foundation. (Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.)
This week Drone U makes its first foray into what drones will mean for the future of warfare. Amnesty International advocacy adviser Naureen Shah starts by putting us in the shoes of people for whom American military drones are a regular part of life. "You're probably not afraid of being killed by a drone, but what if you were?” Naureen asks. “What if you lived in a country like Yemen or Pakistan where the U.S. was not so secretly engaged in a drone campaign … and was keeping drones overhead with that constant buzz for days at a time?"
Another main question is whether armed drones are killing militants or civilians. Naureen notes that we lack good data on civilian casualties. Estimates range between Obama administration claims of no civilians killed, while other reports put the numbers closer to 1,000 since drone strikes began in Pakistan a decade ago.
Defense and intelligence leaders have referred to drones as the most precise weapon in the American arsenal. They can hover overhead for hours longer than a human pilot, and as their sensors develop, they will be able to see details that are difficult to obtain from other systems.
Although drone technology may be evolving rapidly, Naureen notes that how it is applied needs to be evaluated in light of existing law. Under international humanitarian law during armed conflict, force can be used against the armed forces of an enemy, military objectives, or civilians directly participating in hostilities. Outside of armed conflict, human rights law applies, and intentional use of force can only be used where strictly necessary to prevent an imminent threat to life.
Is the U.S. conducting drone strikes as part of an armed conflict? The U.S. says it is in a global war, so the U.S. could carry out killings anywhere in the world. According to this logic, if you are in a country that has members of al-Qaida or an al-Qaida offshoot, then you are sitting on a global battlefield and you might be considered collateral damage. Naureen argues that whatever the advances of drone technology, the U.S. should be responding to reports of potentially unlawful killings rather than simply saying that they don't exist.
Join us on Sept. 4 for the next episode from Drone U featuring Christopher Tuckwood, executive director of the Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention. He will be speaking about how drones might be used to protect human rights.
Pirate Party Crashes Spy Drone in Front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel
torrentfreak.com, September 17, 2013
With the German elections less than a week away, the Pirate Party has pulled off a quite extraordinary stunt. At a campaign rally by Chancellor Angela Merkel, a Pirate flew an unmanned camera-equipped drone just feet away from the somewhat amused German leader, before crash landing it just in front of her less than happy defense minister.
With less than a week to go until the national elections on September 22, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her team are working hard to maintain their lead in the polls and extend her current eight years in power.
But despite the world’s most powerful female politician reportedly hating campaign politics, the 59-year-old still managed to raise a smile following a surprise entrance during a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) event in the city of Dresden.
Some political parties are awash with money and can afford to go on campaign trails with few expenses spared. But for the parties who are happy with votes in single percentage figures – the Pirate Party for one – getting exposure requires more creative thinking.
As Merkel and members of her team stood on stage, a small object could be seen in the sky. After hovering around for a while onlookers could see that the UFO was in fact a small drone. It proceeded to swoop down just a few feet in front of Merkel, apparently taking photos and recording video of the event.
Seconds later with its Pirate Party operator apparently having been approached by the police, the drone crash-landed into the stage and was taken away by an official. While Merkel seemed to be amused, Germany’s defense minister in the dark suit to her left looked rather less impressed.
The party later confirmed that the stunt was a protest against the EU’s use of surveillance drones.
“The objective of the mission was to convey to the Chancellor and Minister of Defence Thomas de Maizière what it’s like to be suddenly observed from a drone,” said Markus Barenhoff, vice chairman of the German Pirate Party.
The party said it also wanted to draw attention to a scrapped drone project which had already cost Germany upwards of half a billion euros before it was closed down earlier this year.
The drone’s 23-year-old pilot was briefly detained and later released, having successfully grabbed the headlines and attention of voters across Germany. It is doubtful that the U.S. Pirate Party will emulate their european counterparts with a similar stunt on home soil – life is just too precious.
What it Looks Like to Soar Through a French Mountain Range on the Back of an EagleSeptember 18, 2013
What it Looks Like to Soar Through a French Mountain Range on the Back of an Eagle France birds
In this short clip filmed earlier this week using a GoPro camera strapped to the back of an eagle, we see what it might be like to soar through a mountain range near Chamonix, France. (via Kottke)
http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2013/09/f ... le-france/
Empty F-16 jet tested by Boeing and US Air Force
By Leo Kelion
BBC, 24 September 2013 Last updated at 16:58 GMT
Boeing has revealed that it has retrofitted retired fighter jets to turn them into drones.
It said that one of the Lockheed Martin F-16 made a first flight with an empty cockpit last week.
Two US Air Force pilots controlled the plane from the ground as it flew from a Florida base to the Gulf of Mexico.
The pilotless jet flew over the Gulf of Mexico on the test carried out on 19 September
Boeing suggested that the innovation could ultimately be used to help train pilots, providing an adversary they could practise firing on.
The jet - which had previously sat mothballed at an Arizona site for 15 years - flew at an altitude of 40,000ft (12.2km) and a speed of Mach 1.47 (1,119mph/1,800km/h).
It carried out a series of manoeuvres including a barrel roll and a "split S" - a move in which the aircraft turns upside down before making a half loop so that it flies the right-way-up in the opposite direction. This can be used in combat to evade missile lock-ons.
Boeing said the unmanned F16 was followed by two chase planes to ensure it stayed in sight, and also contained equipment that would have allowed it to self-destruct if necessary.
The firm added that the flight attained 7Gs of acceleration but was capable of carrying out manoeuvres at 9Gs - something that might cause physical problems for a pilot.
"It flew great, everything worked great, [it] made a beautiful landing - probably one of the best landings I've ever seen," said Paul Cejas, the project's chief engineer.
Lt Col Ryan Inman, Commander of the US Air Force's 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron, also had praise for how the test had gone.
Boeing said that this was the first time an F-16 jet had been flown without a pilot
"It was a little different to see it without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around," he said.
Boeing said that it had a total of six modified F-16s, which have been renamed QF-16s, and that the US military now planned to use some of them in live fire tests.
However, a spokesman for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots warned of the temptation to use them in warfare.
"I'm very concerned these could be used to target people on the ground," said Prof Noel Sharkey.
"I'm particularly worried about the high speed at which they can travel because they might not be able to distinguish their targets very clearly.
"There is every reason to believe that these so-called 'targets' could become a test bed for drone warfare, moving us closer and closer to automated killing."
A video of the test has been posted online [by Boeing].
EXCLUSIVE: Small drone crash lands in Manhattan (Video)
Updated at 05:31 PM today
NEW YORK (WABC) -- A small helicopter drone flying high above buildings on the East side of Manhattan crash landed just feet away from a businessman during the Monday evening rush hour.
The drone is small but the FAA says it should not have been flying hundreds of feet above a crowded Manhattan sidewalk.
The businessman who almost took a direct hit from the unmanned device, recovered its video card from the debris and then reached out to us.
The video from the crashed drone shows it taking off from a high-rise terrace in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. It's evening rush hour and below thousands of New Yorkers are heading home, unaware that 20 to 30 stories above them, a small, 3-pound radio-controlled helicopter with a camera is flying overhead.
"Choosing their own personal enjoyment over any of the consequences," a businessman, who asked not to be identified, told us.
The financial analyst contacted us after the drone crash landed just feet away from him as he was walking home Monday near Grand Central Station.
"My first thought was someone has done something reckless and could have put people in danger," he said.
The drone's camera records video of some of the city's most iconic buildings: The Chrysler, Met-Life, and Grand Central. It's clear though the operator is inexperienced as he loses control of the unmanned aircraft several times, slamming it into high rises. The flight 300-to-400 feet above Midtown lasts about 3 minutes before it strikes the corner of a building and crashes to the street below, missing the businessman by feet:
"They made conscious decision to fly something they don't have control over obviously through the most crowded city, most crowded time of the day and I can't believe there's no law against this," he said.
We've learned the drone is called the Phantom Quadcopter because of its four plastic rotor blades. It can be bought on the internet for under $500 dollars. Although small, the FAA considers it an "unmanned aircraft system."
A spokeswoman tells us, "We do not currently permit the operation of unmanned aircraft over congested areas like Manhattan."
"The people who did it are clearly identifiable on the video," he said.
The financial analyst says he called police and showed them the video, which identifies the drone operator. Despite seeing something and saying something, he claims police did nothing.
"I got the sense they knew it was something out of the ordinary and they didn't know how to handle it," he said.
The NYPD says the incident is being investigated to determine whether reckless endangerment is involved.
http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?secti ... id=9270668
9 April 2013
Human Rights Council Twenty-third session Agenda item 3 Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns
Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs) are weapon systems that, once activated, can select and engage targets without further human intervention. They raise far-reaching concerns about the protection of life during war and peace. This includes the question of the extent to which they can be programmed to comply with the requirements of international humanitarian law and the standards protecting life under international human rights law. Beyond this, their deployment may be unacceptable because no adequate system of legal accountability can be devised, and because robots should not have the power of life and death over human beings. The Special Rapporteur recommends that States establish national moratoria on aspects of LARs, and calls for the establishment of a high level panel on LARs to articulate a policy for the international community on the issue.
http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies ... -47_en.pdf
Cosmic Cowbell » 04 Oct 2013 16:52 wrote:
Re: This week in jellyfish
by Cosmic Cowbell » 04 Oct 2013 16:52Jellyfish* are serious business. If you get enough of them in one place, bad things happen. And we're not just talking about some mildly annoying stings, but all-out nuclear war. Obviously, we have to fight back. With ROBOTS.
In South Korea, jellyfish are threatening marine ecosystems and are responsible for about US $300 million in damage and losses to fisheries, seaside power plants, and other ocean infrastructure. The problem is that you don't just get a few jellyfish. I mean, a few jellyfish would be kind of cute. The problem is that you get thousands of them. Or hundreds of thousands. Or millions, all at once, literally jellying up the works.
Large jellyfish swarms have been drastically increasing over the past decades and have become a problem in many parts of the world, Hyun Myung, a robotics professor at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), tells IEEE Spectrum. And they aren't affecting just marine life and infrastructure. "The number of beachgoers who have been stung by poisonous jellyfish, which can lead to death in extreme cases, has risen," he says. "One child died due to this last year in Korea."
So Professor Myung and his group at KAIST set out to develop a robot to deal with this issue, and last month, they tested out their solution, the Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm (JEROS), in Masan Bay on the southern coast of South Korea. They've built three prototypes like the one shown below.
http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robo ... otic-swarm
Robotic Boat Hits 1000-Mile Mark in Transatlantic Crossing
By David Schneider
Posted 27 Sep 2013 | 17:59 GMT Share |
“Scout,” a 4-meter-long autonomous boat built by a group of young DIYers, is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is traveling from Rhode Island, where it launched on 24 August, to Spain, where all being well it will arrive in a few months’ time.
Scout has now gone about 1000 miles (1600 kilometers) of its planned 3700-mile (5900 kilometer) journey. Should it complete this voyage successfully, its passage will arguably belong in the history books.
http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robo ... c-crossing
Soon, Drones May Be Able to Make Lethal Decisions on Their Own
Scientists, engineers and policymakers are all figuring out ways drones can be used better and more smartly, more precise and less damaging to civilians, with longer range and better staying power. One method under development is by increasing autonomy on the drone itself.
Eventually, drones may have the technical ability to make even lethal decisions autonomously: to respond to a programmed set of inputs, select a target and fire their weapons without a human reviewing or checking the result. Yet the idea of the U.S. military deploying a lethal autonomous robot, or LAR, is sparking controversy. Though autonomy might address some of the current downsides of how drones are used, they introduce new downsides policymakers are only just learning to grapple with.
The basic conceit behind a LAR is that it can outperform and outthink a human operator. "If a drone's system is sophisticated enough, it could be less emotional, more selective and able to provide force in a way that achieves a tactical objective with the least harm," said Purdue University Professor Samuel Liles. "A lethal autonomous robot can aim better, target better, select better, and in general be a better asset with the linked ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] packages it can run."
Though the pace for drone strikes has slowed down -- only 21 have struck Pakistan in 2013, versus 122 in 2010 according to the New America Foundation -- unmanned vehicles remain a staple of the American counterinsurgency toolkit. But drones have built-in vulnerabilities that military planners still have not yet grappled with. Last year, for example, an aerospace engineer told the House Homeland Security Committee that with some inexpensive equipment he could hack into a drone and hijack it to perform some rogue purpose.
Drones have been hackable for years. In 2009, defense officials told reporters that Iranian-backed militias used $26 of off-the-shelf software to intercept the video feeds of drones flying over Iraq. And in 2011, it was reported that a virus had infected some drone control systems at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, leading to security concerns about the security of unmanned aircraft.
It may be that the only way to make a drone truly secure is to allow it to make its own decisions without a human controller: if it receives no outside commands, then it cannot be hacked (at least as easily). And that's where LARs, might be the most attractive.
Though they do not yet exist, and are not possible with current technology, LARs are the subject of fierce debate in academia, the military and policy circles. Still, many treat their development as inevitability. But how practical would LARs be on the battlefield?
Heather Roff, a visiting professor at the University of Denver, said many conflicts, such as the civil war in Syria, are too complex for LARs. "It's one thing to use them in a conventional conflict," where large militaries fight away from cities, "but we tend to fight asymmetric battles. And interventions are only military campaigns -- the civilian effects matter."
Roff says that because LARs are not sophisticated enough to meaningfully distinguish between civilians and militants in a complex, urban environment, they probably would not be effective at achieving a constructive military end-- if only because of how a civilian population would likely react to self-governing machines firing weapons at their city. "The idea that you could solve that crisis with a robotic weapon is naïve and dangerous," she said.
Any autonomous weapons system is unlikely to be used by the military, except in extraordinary circumstances, argued Will McCants, a fellow at the Brookings Saban Center and director of its project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World. "You could imagine a scenario," he says, "in which LAR planes hunted surface-to-air missiles as part of a campaign to destroy Syria's air defenses." It would remove the risk to U.S. pilots while exclusively targeting war equipment that has no civilian purpose.
But such a campaign is unlikely to ever happen. "Ultimately, the national security staff," he said, referring to personnel that make up the officials and advisers of the National Security Council, "does not want to give up control of the conflict." The politics of the decision to deploy any kind of autonomous weaponry matters as much as the capability of the technology itself. "With an autonomous system, the consequences of failure are worse in the public's mind. There's something about human error that makes people more comfortable with collateral damage if a person does it," McCants said.
That's not to say anyone is truly comfortable with collateral damage. "They'd rather own these kinds of decisions themselves and be able to chalk it up to human error," McCants said. Political issues aside, B.J. Strawser, assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, says that LARs simply could not be used effectively in a place like Syria. "You'd need exceedingly careful and restrictive ROEs [rules of engagement], and I worry that anyone could carry that out effective, autonomous weapon or not," he said.
"I don't think any actor, human or not, is capable of carrying out the refined, precise ROEs that would enable an armed intervention to be helpful in Syria."
http://www.nationaljournal.com/national ... n-20131008
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