American in Spain

Drone Terrorism: Coming to Skies Near You!

December 23, 2014

QuadcopterUnmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology is advancing incredibly rapidly. For several years now, I've been a fan of the Team BlackSheep YouTube channel, which regularly displays seriously impressive videos from the point of view of their drones, zooming around places that no manned aircraft could do. It's about as close to a first person perspective from Peter Pan or Superman that we all imagine as you can find on the internet. As of the end of 2014, the current state of consumer UAV technology is that we have drones that are wise to GPS and can run a set pattern of waypoints completely unaided. You program them, and you say "Go!" and that's it. They do their thing and will even land within a meter or so of where they launched. That's. Pretty. Awesome.

However, as one of the billions of humans who remember exactly where they were on September 11, 2001, a very, very obvious thing occurs to me. [Dear CIA Agent reading this, Please don't waste my tax dollars investigating me.] How incredibly easy would it be, perhaps not with today's technology, but with tomorrow's, to program anywhere from one to a thousand (they're only a hundred or two each) of drones, each with a stick of whatever the modern equivalent of dynamite is, to all rise up at the same moment, across a nation, and crash themselves into major targets?

The natural churn of progress of technology has taken the pilot out of the kamikaze plane and the radical out of the suicide vest.

Thankfully, your average terrorist is no where near as organized as the foes depicted on 24 or Homeland. But if someone can fly a drone up to Angela Merkel, it doesn't seem that hard to get one next to just about anyone of importance, especially those who give public speeches.

If our future, according to Jeff Bezos, is to have drones zipping about overhead all the time delivering packages and mapping our streets and traffic patterns, I don't really foresee any way, aside horrifically draconian licensing fees (and even then, they will be practically unenforceable), to keep the bad guys, the harm causers, if you will, from using the same technology against us. The "only a good guy with a drone can stop a bad guy with a drone" is as false as its more famous gun rights cousin.

There are gun clubs, who post videos on YouTube, where a bunch of Ye Good Olde Boys go out to the gun range and someone pilots a UAV around in front of them, and they try to shoot it down. This sounds fun as hell, but it really demonstrates just how hard the little buggers are to hit.

As someone who keeps what Team BlackSheep does, gorgeous aerial photography via remote control, on my list of "Stuff to do when I'm so rich that money is no longer an object", I'm concerned that the future of such technologies might be so dark.

Of course, it's supremely ironic (or just?) that the action that causes the most hatred of the United States and its allies that will most likely fuel/fund the first of these unmanned aerial strikes is...wait for it...military unmanned aerial strikes.

I don't know what to do about it – some sort of directed EMP device for Secret Service agents? – but it seems inevitable that this technology will be eventually be used by a militarily weaker entity against a military giant, which will be called "terrorism". It's just something that has become obvious to me, so I thought I would write it down so I can point people back here when the event actually happens in 2018 ± 3 years.