|Lev Grossman's article, now in Time.com
Wikipedia's article on Nikola Tesla
Wikipedia's article on the New America Foundation
Matternet's home page
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following factoids were gleaned from “Drone Home”, an article on
unmanned aircraft systems by Lev Grossman that appeared in the February
11, 2013, issue of Time Magazine. Grossman calls drones a
transformative technology and tells how they have transformed the US
military and are about to transform things in these United
States. He also explains the main problem that people who have
experienced being blown up or at least spied upon by drones have with
them, namely that “you're dealing with someone who is both present and
absent, who has decided that what they say or do will have consequences
for you but not for them.”
. Remote controlled devices are not new. Nikola Tesla's
wirelessly controlled power boat was patented in 1898.
. The U.S. Military built (but never used) unmanned, gyroscopically
stabilized biplanes for use in World War I.
. Marilyn Monroe was discovered by an alert Army photographer while she
was working for a company called Radioplane, which manufactured drones
for target practice.
. Joseph Kennedy, elder brother of JFK, was killed in World War II when
his plane blew up prematurely. His B-24 Liberator had been loaded
with bombs as part of the Navy's Operation Aphrodite, in which bombers
were deliberately crashed into targets in Germany under radio control
after their two-man crew parachuted to safety.
. The U.S. used 3,435 Ryan 147Bs as reconnaissance drones in Vietnam
soon after pilot Gary Powers' U2 spy plane was downed in Russia, as
part of a program code named Red Wagon.
. U.S. Drone attacks have reportedly killed more than 50 al-Qaeda and
. The New America Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy
institute and think tank, estimates that since 2004, CIA drone attacks
have killed from 1,953 to 3,279 people in Pakistan alone, of whom 261
to 305 were civilians. Critics of the drones program say that the
practical effectiveness of the strikes is undermined by their tendency
to outrage and radicalize a population.
. Some US soldiers carry hand-launchable Raven surveillance drones and
kamikaze Switchblade drones for targeting snipers.
. The Navy's Seafox, a single-use underwater drone, is hunting for
Iranian mines in the Persian Gulf.
. A report released by the Pentagon in December 2011 states that almost
30% of Air Force drone pilots suffer from burnout, and 17% were
clinically distressed. They may not have been in danger, but some
part of them was nevertheless in combat.
. This technology will soon flow from the military sphere into the
civilian. A company called Parrot offers a drone called the
AR.Drone 2.0, a miniature helicopter with four rotors that you control
with an app on your smartphone. It sells for about $300.
. Washington State's Dept. of Transportation wants to try using drones
for avalanche control.
. The U.S. Dept. of Energy plans to use helicopter drones to take air
. The Forest Service wants drones to help fight fires.
. Police Departments in five states have sought permission to use
drones in local law enforcement.
. At the 2012 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International
trade show in Las Vegas, more than 500 companies touted drones for
filming crowds and tornadoes and for surveying agricultural fields,
power lines, coal fields, construction sites, gas spills and
. A new company called Matternet wants to establish a network of drones
that will transport small, urgent packages of things like medicine.
. One issue slowing the coming of drones into everyday America is that
they crash a lot. The Washington Post reported on a run of drone
crashes at civilian airports overseas, including two in the past year
at an airport in the Seychelles, where military drones called Reapers
were being used to keep an eye out for pirates.
Click some of the links at the left for more information.
May 7, 2013