Posts tagged: drones
Here’s Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Schahill’s first article for The Interceptor, the first publication from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s new media company:
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.
The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.
James Ball writes that although Amazon’s drone plan is unlikely to happen, it did manage to minimize criticism of Amazon’s corporate practices during cybermonday:
Bezos’ neat trick has knocked several real stories about Amazon out of the way. Last week’s Panorama investigation into Amazon’s working and hiring practices, suggesting that the site’s employees had an increased risk of mental illness, is the latest in a long line of pieces about the company’s working conditions – zero-hour contracts, short breaks, and employees’ every move tracked by internal systems. Amazon’s drone debacle also moved discussion of its tax bill – another long-running controversy, sparked by the Guardian’s revelation last year that the company had UK sales of £7bn but paid no UK corporation tax – to the margins. The technology giants – Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al – have have huge direct reach to audiences and customers, the money to hire swarms of PR and communications staff, and a technology press overwhelmingly happy to incredulously print almost every word, rather than to engage in the much harder task of actually holding them to account.
A bit more about why this won’t work from Wired
Georgia’s WALB reports:
Trying to get contraband into a prison is nothing new, but there is a new method. This week, some creative crooks tried to get tobacco to South Georgia prisoners by using a remote controlled helicopter, but they didn’t get away with it.
A lieutenant from the Calhoun State prison noticed a small helicopter flying over the gates of and a search began. Sheriff Josh Hilton says about an hour later deputies noticed a suspicious black dodge car with Gwinnett County tags on Edison Street.
Full Story: WALB: Crooks get creative to smuggle contraband
Above: generative cities and architecture by Aranda & Lasch
Futurist Chris Arkenberg outlines a possible scenario for urban planning and architecture:
As complex ecosystems, cities are confronting tremendous pressures to seek optimum efficiency with minimal impact in a resource-constrained world. While architecture, urban planning, and sustainability attempt to address the massive resource requirements and outflow of cities, there are signs that a deeper current of biology is working its way into the urban framework.
Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.
This reminds me of the recent sci-fi short story “Crabapple by Lavie Tidhar:
Neighborhoods sprouted around Central Station like weeds. On the outskirts of the old neighborhood, along the Kibbutz Galuyot Road and Siren Road and Sderot Menachem Begin, the old abandoned highways of Tel Aviv, they grew, ringing the immense structure of the spaceport rising high into the sky. Houses sprouted like trees, blooming, adaptoplant weeds feeding on rain and sun, and digging roots into the sandy ground, breaking ancient asphalt. Adaptoplant neighborhoods, seasonal, unstable, sprouting walls and doors and windows, half-open sewers hanging in the air, exposed bamboo pipes, apartments growing over and into each other, growing without order or sense, creating pavements suspended in midair, houses at crazy angles, shacks and huts with half-formed doors, windows like eyes–
In autumn the neighborhoods shed, doors drying, windows shrinking slowly, pipes drooping. Houses fell like leaves to the ground below and the road cleaning machines murmured happily, eating up the shrunken leaves of former residencies. Above ground the tenants of those seasonal buoyant suburbs stepped cautiously, testing the ground with each step taken, to see if it would hold, migrating nervously across the skyline to other, fresher spurts of growth, new adaptoplant blooming delicately, windows opening like fruit–
For more of Arkenberg check out our interview with him. Want to learn to think like he does? Here’s his guest post listing his favorite books on systems thinking.
And for more big, mad ideas about architecture and cities check out:
Commercial airspace laws are holding back drone journalism, but it’s coming:
The benefits for journalists are evident too, especially for those who are in the field, like many science journalists. Journalists can use drones to report on disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. Having an above-the-ground view may give journalists a better perspective of the extent of a disaster. By making use of sensors attached to drones, journalists can measure numerous parameters such as radiation levels in inaccessible areas. An environment journalist may also be keen to use drones to collect specimen such as polluted water samples while an exploring nature journalist can use them as communication relays so that they can touch base when reporting from remote areas.
Drone journalism appears to make so much sense that two universities in the US have already incorporated drone use in their journalism programs. The Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska and the Missouri Drone Journalism Program at the University of Missouri both teach journalism students how to make the most of what drones have to offer when reporting a story. They also teach students how to fly drones, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and ethics.
Mother Jones reports:
First things first: No, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is not using drones to vaporize poachers. But thanks to a five million dollar grant awarded by Google on Tuesday, the organization is expanding its use of unmanned aerial vehicles to track and deter criminals who illegally hunt endangered animal species around the world.
George Dvorsky writes:
A new project has been announced in which scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are hoping to create the first accurate computer simulation of a honey bee brain — and then upload it into an autonomous flying robot.
This is obviously a huge win for science — but it could also save the world. The researchers hope a robotic insect could supplement or replace the shrinking population of honey bees that pollinate essential plant life.
Apple has for the third—and what looks like the final—time rejected an app that would send alerts every time a U.S. military drone made a kill. The first two times Apple said no to Drones+, it said it was “not useful” (we beg to differ), then told the makers there was a problem with the corporate logo, report Danger Room’s Christina Bonnington and Spencer Ackerman. This last time, however, Apple has given its definitive no, citing “objectionable and crude” content — the type of stuff that isn’t in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. It’s not clear what part of the app is “objectionable or crude” because as Bonnington and Ackerman put it, “Drones+ doesn’t present grisly images of corpses left in the aftermath of the strikes. It just tells users when a strike has occurred, going off a publicly available database of strikes compiled by the U.K.’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism,” they write. (Wired has a video of how the app works.) But it doesn’t really matter what part they find “objectionable.” Apple’s history of iPhone app store censorship has shown that Apple does what it wants because it can — and it’s nice enough to have even told the Drones+ makers its reasons.
Apple has never wanted to key us in on its reasons for doing things because that way it can do what it wanted without explanation.
Including in Oregon:
Think of a lifeguard and you might conjure up images of sunburned teenagers working a summer job. A new and relatively inexpensive lifesaving device could change that.
Meet EMILY, a remote-controlled lifeguard. It looks like a buoy, but it’s a small watercraft fitted with a flotation device. It can go up to 22 mph and can get to people more quickly, and in some cases more safely, than any human.
In a Technion aeronautics laboratory, a pair of scientists are conducting experiments funded by the U.S. Army that would allow them to control the flight of insects from afar, as if they were mechanical flight vehicles. […]
Research in this field has developed considerably over the past decade thanks to advances in electronic equipment. The Technion lab is one of some five laboratories around the world conducting similar research. The University of Michigan team has been particularly successful, having managed to control the flight of insects from afar, for allotted periods of time. In the Haifa laboratory, researchers have gained control of the flight of insects that are connected to a simulator. They can give a series of commands that control the flight movements of insects for a few minutes. […]
Do the insects suffer? “I don’t know, and I don’t know whether anyone knows for sure,” says Ribak. “But the experiments which we conduct are extremely non-invasive. In comparison to experiments conducted on animals, this is child’s play,” he says. “The Helsinki agreements for experimentation on animals do not apply to insects. Insects are not regarded as important,” says Weihs. “After the electrodes are implanted, we don’t think there can be any pain, since the electric signal is a natural sign produced by the insect itself. We just tell the insect when it should make a movement, using these signals.”