Drones Factoids
Lev Grossman's article, now in Time.com

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The 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 Taliban leaders.

. 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 samples.

. 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 archeological digs.

. 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.

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May 7, 2013

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