unmanned aerial vehicles

It was obvious even back then, to anyone who made the faintest effort to look at the situation honestly, that the invasion was doomed, wrong, and a joke.

Do people not remember this stuff? George Bush got on television on October 7th, 2002 and told the entire country that Saddam Hussein was thinking of using “unmanned aerial vehicles” for “missions targeting the United States.”

Only a handful of news outlets at the time, most of them tiny Internet sites, bothered to point out that such “UAVs” had a range of about 300 miles, while Iraq was 6,000 miles from New York.

What was the plan – Iraqi frogmen swimming poison-filled drones onto Block Island?

This fantasy was silly when the scare story was Red Dawn and our enemy was the technologically advanced Soviet Union. But to have the president of the United States trot that one out about busted-down Iraq in a national address, and not have him immediately pilloried by the entire national press corps, was incredible.

The Iraq invasion was always an insane exercise in brainless jingoism that could only be intellectually justified after accepting a series of ludicrous suppositions.

First you had to accept a fictional implied connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Then you had to buy that this heavily-sanctioned secular dictator (and confirmed enemy of Islamic radicals) would be a likely sponsor of radical Islamic terror. Then after that you had to accept that Saddam even had the capability of supplying terrorists with weapons that could hurt us (the Bush administration’s analysts famously squinted so hard their faces turned inside out trying to see that one).

And then, after all that, you still had to buy that all of these factors together added up to a threat so imminent that it justified the immediate mass sacrifice of American and Iraqi lives.

It was absurd, a whole bunch of maybes piled on top of a perhaps and a theoretically possible or two.

The bulk of them hid behind the morons in our business, people like Tom Friedman and David Brooks and Jeffrey “I trusted the Germans” Goldberg, frontline pundits who were pushed forward to do the dirty work, the hardcore pom-pom stuff.

Many others, particularly the editors, quietly sat by and let lie after lie spill onto their papers’ pages, telling themselves that this wasn’t wrong or a mistake until years later, when we found out for sure the WMD thing was a canard.


Published on 23 Apr 2017

DARPA created the Service Academies Swarm Challenge to help make effective unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) swarm tactics a reality. The Challenge is a collaboration between the Agency and the three U.S. military Service academies—the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Full details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufidH_M0RqQ&feature=youtu.be


Unmanned aerial vehicles can be a great tool for wildlife biologists - allowing them to study rare species in difficult terrain with little risk. But this tool might have an effect on the study subjects.

Biologists in Minnesota wanted to know how bears reacted to drones. Luckily, they had already fitted several black bears with heart monitors so they could study the bear’s hibernation. When an off-the-shelf helicopters flew near the bears, their heart rates jumped from about 41 bpm to 160 bpm. 

This happened even though video taken by the drones showed the bears acting completely calm.

“We need to be aware that just because we can’t visually see an effect, that it doesn’t mean there’s not some sort of stress response going on,” the study’s author, Mark Ditmer says.


Image: American Black Bear by Victor


The first Unmanned Aerial Vehicles had unglamorous beginnings. The first “drones” were actually balloons. They came equipped with long copper wires that operators used to remotely trigger bombs. These didn’t quite catch on, for obvious reasons.  The RP-4 was a target drone that was cheaply mass-produced in the late 1930s and launched by catapult.  

These long-gone systems used servos, gyroscopes, motors, and rotary switches, and they’re all lovingly described in Unmanned Systems of World Wars I and II, an encyclopedic history of remotely controlled ships, planes, and tanks.

Read about the history of World War II era drones and check out more photos.

1. Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike leveled the florist’s.

2. Call me Ishmael. I was a young man of military age. I was immolated at my wedding. My parents are inconsolable.

3. Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.

4. I am an invisible man. My name is unknown. My loves are a mystery. But an unmanned aerial vehicle from a secret location has come for me.

5. Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was killed by a Predator drone.

6. Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His torso was found, not his head.

7. Mother died today. The program saves American lives.

—  ‘Seven short stories about drones’ - Teju Cole

Farewell old friend, you served well.

Aerial Cavalrymen of 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), fly all 30 of the squadrons’ Observational Helicopter-58D Kiowa Warriors in formation over Fort Drum, N.Y. and surrounding areas. After more than 20 years at the installation, the OH-58D will be retired after a final flight July 28, 2015, as a part of the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative, which will replace the Kiowa Warriors with a combination of Attack-Helicopter 64 Apaches and unmanned aerial vehicles. 

(Army Photo by Spc. Osama Ayyad, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) Public Affairs Office), 27 JUL 2015.)


Oculus FPV

Another drone / Oculus Rift project, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; this one has a manoeuvrable stereo camera which mimics the head position in real-time during flight - video embedded below:

In this project we have attempted to combine virtual reality (VR) head mounted displays (HMDs) with modern unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, in order to pilot a DJI Phantom 2 drone through an Oculus Rift. In many situations, the need for access in order to perform visual inspection is important. In environments such as inaccessible terrain and tall buildings, the cost and risk of utilizing a human being as the medium of inspection may be too high. In such cases, a drone mounted with cameras which stream video to a VR headset will be able to perform satisfactory.

… As drone technology is becoming more and more ubiquitous, the possibility of combining it with other emerging technologies makes for several interesting projects. By using a standard drone and combining it with VR technology, it is possible to create immersive flight experiences. This can be used for personal enjoyment, as well as for performing tasks involving visual inspection of otherwise inaccessible structures and terrain features.

More info about this project can be found at this PDF here and it’s Github page here


Will future surveillance missions start with spools of plastic filament, pop-in components and a 3-D printer? It would certainly save valuable space aboard the naval, coastal patrol and research ships that are often the platform from where drones are launched.

Engineers at the University of Southampton in the UK recently demonstrated the concept by launching their small 3-D printed SULSA unmanned aerial vehicle off the deck of a Royal Navy warship. The almost seven-pound, five-foot-long drone flew 1,640 feet to shore after being catapulted off the HMS Mersey. Learn more below.

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The CRACUNS drone can hide underwater and pop out like a goddamn sea monster

Researchers at the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have developed an unmanned aerial vehicle that can remain submerged in water and then launch into the air for aerial missions when needed. It can withstand water pressure and a corrosive saltwater environment until it’s ready to blast out of the sea. So what’s the point of these flying sea drones, beyond just looking fucking awesome?

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As America’s wars spread domestically and internationally, Israel and its occupation of the Palestinians have emerged as direct inspirations, not just as metaphor in the rhymes of hip-hop artists. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein offered Israel as a cautionary example for the rest of the world. The assumption in the early days of the “peace process” was that Israel needed peace in order to foster and sustain economic growth and prosperity. But in the post–9/11 environment, Klein shows how Israel transformed its economy into one “that expands in direct response to escalating violence” and has become the world’s “shopping mall for homeland security technologies,” reaping billions. In 2012, Israel’s “security” and “defense” industries, including conventional arms sales, saw record exports worth $7.5 billion, with much of the recent growth coming from the Asia-Pacific region. Israel’s arms exports have more than doubled from $3.5 billion in 2003, making it the world’s sixth largest arms exporter. Israel’s global sales of unmanned aerial vehicles—more commonly known as drones—are second only to those of the United States.
—  Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine

Robot Bat Being Developed To Monitor Construction Sites

Are computer eyes, bat-like drones and worker movement analysis the steps that the construction industry will take before burly robotic builders invade jobsites?

While big, powerful disruptions like robots, contour crafting and supermaterials draw the most attention in any discussion of the future of building, the reality is that most of these technologies won’t hit the worksite in a major way for a while to come.

Some engineers are looking to inject innovation into the gap between now and then by creating or customizing current technologies to monitor work and improve jobsite efficiency. One team leading this charge is the Real-time and Automated Monitoring and Control (RAAMAC) group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Future of Flight Taking Shape: Electric Motors and Shape-Changing Wings Pass Tests

A passenger seated over the wing of a future airplane might have a very different view out the window if two recently completed NASA flight tests are any indication. 

Last week the agency announced a large model aircraft equipped with 10 electric motors attached to rotatable wings and rear tailplanes had successfully completed an initial test flight. If all goes well, the new design could make next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles for long-endurance military, agriculture and other monitoring missions. A personal aerial vehicle version of the design could also carry up to four people when scaled.

Meanwhile, a separate team announced equally satisfactory airworthiness results for a jet equipped with wings built without traditional flaps. Instead, the jet flew 22 research flights with monolithic wings whose trailing edges bend and flex. The morphing wings have been cleared to be built into future large transport aircraft. See pictures and learn more about the two advances below.

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Wildland Firefighters Get Help From Above With Drone Surveillance

NASA researchers will be testing out this robotic aircraft for the next year to see if it can help catch forest and brush fires before they get out of control. The vehicle, which can be programmed to fly on its own, will perform missions over the 50,000-acre Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge that straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border. 

The battery-powered drone can travel at up to 40 mph for an hour at a time before needing to be recharged. They’ve equipped it with a forward-mounted camera to look for rising smoke plumes and a ground-facing infrared camera to scan for hidden hot spots. Video feeds are transmitted back to refuge managers to spot ignition after lightning strikes in the refuge. The whole six-foot-wingspan system weighs just 15 pounds.

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WiFi Drones Stand Up Network During Emergencies

by Michael Keller

Some of the first responders to enter future disaster zones might be tiny drones equipped with transmitters designed to reestablish WiFi and cellphone communications. 

University of North Texas electrical engineers have unveiled prototypes of the multirotor aerial vehicles that they are designing to fly in pairs after the network goes down. One drone would land in the area–perhaps on a rooftop–and the second would be placed in line of sight of the first up to almost two miles away. 

See the video and read more below.

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Can We Trust Google With the Stratosphere?

The challenge is simple. Simple enough for a child to explain. In fact it’s a child’s voice, over a rolling piano and elegant animation that introduced Google’s bold new step into the future: Project Loon. “For each person that can get online, there are two that can’t… What if there was a way to light up the entire world? And make all of the world’s information accessible to all of the world’s people?”

It’s a challenge that Google aims to answer – with a soaring, international balloon armada, beaming Internet to the parts of the world that don’t have it.

Project Loon has gotten a fair amount of attention. The few advertisements Google has released emphasize an idealist bent and the humanitarian potential of bringing a connection to the farthest reaches of the developing world. Criticism, from the likes of Bill Gates and others, has focused on whether the world’s poor need social networking and streaming video as much as medicine and food.

The proposed delivery system has thus far escaped similar scrutiny, which is too bad, because the very mechanics of Project Loon highlight serious legal, diplomatic, and government tensions, which Google is either ignoring, unaware of, or operating in spite of. And yet, that said, it’s not Google’s job to enforce regulatory oversight; breaking ground means new rules have to be invented, too.

Read more. [Image: Google]

Amsterdam to Host World’s First Drone Circus

Get ready to witness a flying spectacle like you have never witnessed before. Amsterdam is hosting the world’s first drone entertainment show and it looks like a scene right out of the movie TRON. The show, called AIR, is to take place at Amsterdam Arena later this year. 

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