Monday, July 11, 2011

Unmanned Aerial Spying and "The Cloud" Internet Surveillance

[source of photo and below text]

Development of biology-inspired drones funded by Pentagon
By Julie Watson - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Feb 28, 2011 17:23:24 EST

SAN DIEGO — You’ll never look at hummingbirds the same again.

The Pentagon is pouring millions of dollars into the development of tiny drones inspired by biology, each equipped with video and audio equipment that can record sights and sounds.

They could be used to spy, but also to locate people inside earthquake-crumpled buildings and detect hazardous chemical leaks.

The smaller, the better.

Besides the hummingbird, engineers in the growing unmanned aircraft industry are working on drones that look like insects and the helicopter-like maple leaf seed.

Researchers are even exploring ways to implant surveillance and other equipment into an insect as it is undergoing metamorphosis. They want to be able to control the creature.

The devices could end up being used by police officers and firefighters.

Their potential use outside of battle zones, however, is raising questions about privacy and the dangers of the winged creatures buzzing around in the same skies as aircraft.

For now, most of these devices are just inspiring awe.

With a 6.5-inch wing span, the remote-controlled bird weighs less than a AA battery and can fly at speeds of up to 11 mph, propelled only by the flapping of its two wings. A tiny video camera sits in its belly.

The bird can climb and descend vertically, fly sideways, forward and backward. It can rotate clockwise and counterclockwise.

Most of all it can hover and perch on a window ledge while it gathers intelligence, unbeknownst to the enemy.

“We were almost laughing out of being scared because we had signed up to do this,” said Matt Keennon, senior project engineer of California’s AeroVironment, which built the hummingbird.

The Pentagon asked them to develop a pocket-sized aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance that mimicked biology. It could be anything, they said, from a dragonfly to a hummingbird.

Five years and $4 million later, the company has developed what it calls the world’s first hummingbird spy plane.

“It was very daunting up front and remained that way for quite some time into the project,” he said, after the drone blew by his head and landed on his hand during a media demonstration.

The toughest challenges were building a tiny vehicle that can fly for a prolonged period and be controlled or control itself.

AeroVironment has a history of developing such aircraft.

Over the decades, the Monrovia, Calif.-based company has developed everything from a flying mechanical reptile to a hydrogen-powered plane capable of flying in the stratosphere and surveying an area larger than Afghanistan at one glance.

It has become a leader in the hand-launched drone industry.

Troops fling a four-pound plane, called the Raven, into the air. They have come to rely on the real-time video it sends back, using it to locate roadside bombs or get a glimpse of what is happening over the next hill or around a corner.

The success of the hummingbird drone, however, “paves the way for a new generation of aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds,” said Todd Hylton of the Pentagon’s research arm, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

These drones are not just birds.

Lockheed Martin has developed a fake maple leaf seed, or so-called whirly bird, loaded with navigation equipment and imaging sensors. The spy plane weighs .07 ounces.

On the far end of the research spectrum, DARPA is also exploring the possibility of implanting live insects during metamorphosis with video cameras or sensors and controlling them by applying electrical stimulation to their wings.

The idea is for the military to be able to send in a swarm of bugs loaded with spy gear.

The military is also eyeing other uses.

The drones could be sent in to search buildings in urban combat zones. Police are interested in using them, among other things, to detect a hazardous chemical leak. Firefighters could fling them out over a disaster to get better data, quickly.

It is hard to tell what, if anything, will make it out of the lab, but their emergence presents challenges and not just with physics.

What are the legal implications, especially with interest among police in using tiny drones for surveillance, and their potential to invade people’s privacy, asks Peter W. Singer, author of the book, “Wired for War” about robotic warfare.

Singer said these questions will be increasingly discussed as robotics become a greater part of everyday life.

“It’s the equivalent to the advent of the printing press, the computer, gun powder,” he said. “It’s that scale of change.”

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Drone Wars: US Ramping Up Unmanned Air Strikes and Domestic Surveillance

Text, transcript, and links for above video:
Unmanned aerial vehicles are once again grabbing headlines as the UK government was forced to admit last week that an RAF drone killed four Afghan civilians and injured two others in an air strike in Helmsland earlier this year.

Drone Wars: US Ramping Up Unmanned Air Strikes and Domestic Surveillance

Welcome. This is James Corbett of The Corbett Report with your Sunday Update from the Centre for Research on Globalization at on this 10th day of July, 2011. And now for the real news.

Unmanned aerial vehicles are once again grabbing headlines as the UK government was forced to admit last week that an RAF drone killed four Afghan civilians and injured two others in an air strike in Helmsland earlier this year.

Expressing “deep regret” over the incident, a Defence Ministry spokesman said: “An ISAF investigation was conducted to establish if any lessons could be learnt from the incident or if errors in operational procedures could be identified; the report noted that the UK Reaper’s crews actions had been in accordance with procedures and UK Rules of Engagement.”

The incident is likely to renew debate about the RAF’s drone program, operated from the US Air Force’s Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. Just this March, the Ministry of Defence released a study of the issue that looked at some of the troubling questions that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in warfare raise.

“It is essential that, before unmanned systems become ubiquitous (if it is not already too late) that we consider this issue and ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance, that we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely.”

The report then goes on to ask if the US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen in fact herald a new era of warfare, an era in which military intervention will be used simply because it can be done without any risk whatsoever to the attacker.

The US military and CIA under the leadership of Nobel peace laureate Barrack Obama is currently using aerial drones to carry out attacks in six different countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and now Somalia. Last month, Washington admitted using drones to commit assassinations of Somalis who it claims have ties to Anwar al-Awlaki, himself an American citizen who the Obama Administration has attempted to assassinate without a trial. It is uncertain who else is on the President’s list of American citizens whom he has unilaterally declared the right to kill, but his DoJ has successfully blocked any judicial oversight of the decision in the courts.

The use of drones are becoming more frequent in every theatre, and have begun to cause great consternation with erstwhile allies such as Pakistan, where the citizens and the government are increasingly protesting the drone strikes. From 2004 to the end of his presidency in January 2009, the Bush administration launched 46 drone strikes in Pakistan. Since taking over the White House, peace prize recipient Obama has launched 213 such strikes.

Now, reports are surfacing that the CIA is building a secret base at an undisclosed location that will be used for carrying out assassinations in Yemen. In justifying the move, an anonymous US official was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying that Yemen “is now the most capable, most imminent threat to the U.S.”

It is uncertain how a small nation of 23 million people in the Arabian Peninsula with a defense budget 1/300th the size of America’s could possibly pose any type of threat to the largest, most well-funded military in the history of the world, but the justification for the drone strikes have been made numerous times by various government officials.

In March of last year, Harold Koh, a legal advisor to the State Department made the case that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles against any nation it deems to be a threat is legally justified.


In April of this year, the White House approved the use of missile-equipped drones in NATO’s Libyan campaign. Since then, 42 drone attacks have been launched on Libya.

According to Global Research associate Mahdi Nazemroaya, who is in Libya on a fact-finding mission, the NATO bombing campaigns have struck mainly civilian targets and constitute more proof that the so-called humanitarian nature of the campaign is in fact a cover for a brazen war of aggression that is being enabled by a complicit lapdog establishment media. He joined The Corbett Report from Tripoli to talk about the situation on the ground last week.


Now, the US Air Force is developing new drone aircraft that can be launched from aircraft carriers, eliminating the need to secure and operate drone bases in foreign countries. The sea-based drones are likely to be deployed in Asia as a counter to an increasingly aggressive Chinese military presence in the region.


The fear is that the US’ aggressive use of drone strikes in multiple locations against countries with whom they are not at war is setting a dangerous precedent and spurring a new arms race. The Economic Times reported last Thursday that China is now ramping up its own research into drone technology, which it plans to sell to strategic partners like Pakistan, itself the victim of numerous American drone strikes.

More worrying still is that the use of drones by police forces across the US and the UK is being normalized as part of a process of incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles into domestic surveillance programs.

In 2007 the UK’s Merseyside Police demonstrated a UAV that it was preparing to use for its policing operations against “anti-social behaviour.”

In 2010, a local news station in Houston captured a secret test of a new spy drone to be used by the Department of Homeland Security to spy on American citizens.

In March of this year, the Miami-Dade County Police Department announced a new unmanned spy drone that is capable of looking into people’s homes.

Now, even the military itself is wondering whether the use of drone vehicles and the increasing push toward autonomous weapons systems that require no human input once they are launched is leading us toward a world of troubling new possibilities.

As the UK Defence Ministry report from earlier this year reads:

“we must be sure that clear accountability for robotic thought exists and this in itself raises a number of difficult debates. Is a programmer guilty of a war crime if a system error leads to an illegal act? Where is the intent required for an accident to become a crime?[...]There is a danger that time is running out – is debate and development of policy even still possible, or is the technological genie already out of the ethical bottle, embarking us all on an incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality?”

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Slide in to about 3 min in for meat of the James Corbett Report. If you like the Corbett Report, please go to site, and donate a little to help keep it up and running.

#194 Corbett Report Podcast

Text, transcripts, and links with video:
Uploaded by on Jul 10, 2011

We are increasingly being encouraged to put our data on “the cloud”…but what does it mean that our information is being handled by third-party companies? This week we examine what the cloud really is and what it means for average internet users.

[source of the below]

Documentation – Steve Jobs announces the iCloud
Time Reference: 03:05
Description: The truth is in the cloud…and did I mention it “just works.”
Link To: YouTube
Documentation – How Cloud Computing Works
Time Reference: 07:46
Description: Brief summary of what the cloud is and why people would want to use it.
Link To:
Documentation – Cloud Computing – Security and Privacy Challenges
Time Reference: 12:12
Description: Microsoft breaks down some of the security and privacy concerns of the cloud.
Link To:
Documentation – Introduction to Keystroke Dynamics and AuthenWare Technology
Time Reference: 20:31
Description: They can identify you by the rhythm with which you type on the keyboard.
Link To: YouTube
Documentation – How Lieberman Got Amazon To Drop Wikileaks
Time Reference: 24:38
Description: The truth is on the cloud…unless the government asks Amazon to remove it.
Link To: TPMMuckraker
Documentation –
Time Reference: 27:28
Description: Home page of Alex Jones.
Link To:
Documentation – The Age of Transitions
Time Reference: 49:10
Description: Home page of Aaron Franz.
Link To: The Age of Transitions

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Anonymous Morgan said...

Such a great article it was which the Pentagon is pouring millions of dollars into the development of tiny drones inspired by biology, each equipped with video and audio equipment that can record sights and sounds.They could be used to spy, but also to locate people inside earthquake-crumpled buildings and detect hazardous chemical leaks.Thanks for sharing this article.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 5:29:00 AM  

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