Game of drones


nanoBritish troops in Afghanistan are now using surveillance drones small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

The new Black Hornet Nano weighs approximately half an ounce and carries a camera for remote viewing. Used to find insurgents and view open areas before crossing, the Hornet offers “amazing capability to the guys on the ground,” according to Sgt. Christopher Petherbridge of Britain’s Brigade Reconnaissance Force.

The UK drones were developed as part of a $31 million contract for 160 units. Drones are becoming standard issue in the US, British, and other military forces of the world.

So the next time you feel the need to ease the pain of your glaucoma, or perhaps you and your partner get the urge to do something just a little odd in your bedroom, make sure the shades are shut tight–’cause it’s only a matter of time before our new little friends will be watching us, folks.

Mini Drones: Army Deploys Tiny Helicopters

23 responses to “Game of drones

  1. I want my own drone!! In a few years I might have it too.


  2. The right to privacy will, I submit, always be in dynamic tension with the right to be safe and protected and it is therefore far from absolute. The Obama administration has quietly carried drone technology to the forefront of military strategy and law enforcement is rapidly catching up. I say, this is a very good thing and beats the hell out of nation-building. Go drones!


    • Isn’t drone tech just a variant of high altitude bombing, minus the dead Americans coming home in body bags?


      • Same as high-altitude bombing, Ojmo? Sorry, I can’t agree with that. There is a huge difference between fire-bombing Dresden and Tokyo, incinerating entire populations of civilians, and knocking off 300 people as collateral damage over a period of a decade. (It occurred to me that if I were an al Qaeda leader my best defense might be to conduct all my meetings in a crown of women and children, and I suspect they actually do that.)

        I submit that it comes down to the moral morass we get into when we go to war. War is the abandonment of civil discourse and a resort to violence, and in this case al Qaeda gave us no choice in the matter. I much prefer surgical drone strikes to sending armies, watching body bags come home by the planeload and bankrupting the country trying to nation-build, but I’m open to suggestions.


        • As I said Jim, a variant. The similarities include the US raining death from the skies, and the victims’ felt experience of terror, never knowing where or when death will strike; hence the technique’s effectiveness. No doubt the American public finds Obama’s surgical methods more palatable than Bush’s thuggery; as John McCain said of Iraq: Americans really don’t care how long we’re there, as long as our soldiers aren’t coming home in body bags.

          Moreover, assertions of false equivalence based on scale (number of deaths), i.e., Bush is not Hitler, are rather unconvincing–whether you order the deaths of one hundred, one thousand, or one million innocents, you can only be hanged for war crimes once.

          In addition, you seem to accept two memes currently in vogue: the “collateral damage” meme and the “they hide behind women and children” meme. The first can be rejected out of hand; the notion that when we blow up the car or the building or the whole neighborhood just to get one guy, it’s right and good and just, is simply absurd. There’s no justification for the murder of innocents as a matter of policy. When they do it, we call it what it is: terrorism.

          As for the “they hide behind women and children” meme, I’d really appreciate if you can point me to some actual evidence for this, something beyond the assertions of embedded journalists or military spokespeople. Otherwise, I haven’t seen a shred of evidence that supports its occurrence.


          • @ Ojmo,

            You fail to acknowledge my argument, which is that the rules of war are different from those of regular and normal societies. By your stated standards, the life of even one innocent is too much to pay for any policy. Fine, I admire idealism, but only so far, and pragmatism demands a different view when diplomacy fails and war is declared. Time and again, governments have tried and failed to establish civilized limits to warfare: machine guns, tanks, submarines, poison gas, rockets, biological warfare. All such efforts have failed. At the end of the day, a declaration of war defines the end of discourse and the resort to extreme measures. The founders understood this and provided for it. The war on terrorism differs only in that the enemy has no established geographical boundaries.

            I do not advocate that war policies be made without due oversight nor free from review and ultimate public judgement. I urge you to see the pragmatic distinction between millions dead and a few hundred.


            • Well, I thought I acknowledged your argument, and rejected it. I do not believe killing a few hundred so-called terrorists will solve anything. I rejected in 2001, and still reject, the entire post-911 discourse coming from our political and media elites, every crappy, mindless talking point: “Everything is different now”, “The whole world is a battlefield”, and “We cannot prosecute this war using the conventional rules. We need new rules to fight the terrorists.” It’s drivel, and it’s the United States that’s driven the world past what you call “civilized limits to warfare”, if such a thing is conceivable, by embracing four practices: preventive detention, preventive execution, preventive war, and torture. The planet is a much more dangerous place as a result (not to mention the assault on our civil liberties in the name of “security”). And there’s nothing idealistic about this, it’s a simple pragmatic statement: each person you kill is somebody’s son, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s brother, sister, mother, father, aunt, uncle, friend. Like the heads of the mythical Hydra, for each person you kill, ten more will spring up to take their place. It’s elegant in its simplicity; one could almost admire it, if not for its monstrosity. So now we have a war that cannot end; a perfect Orwellian world where we invade and occupy nations to bring them freedom and democracy, where we imprison and torture to win hearts and minds, where we kill to liberate. As a thought experiment, just imagine what would happen–work out the consequences–if Mexico, chasing the cartel, killed an entire wedding party in Texas or California, all innocents.


              • Well, I get your point, ojmo, that killing terrorists tends to make enemies on an exponential scale, but I don’t detect a solution in your comment either. Unless it’s “turn the other cheek”. Baptists espouse that in the pew, but they vote otherwise because in their hearts they know it isn’t practical.

                OK, there you are, President Ojmo, and it’s October, 2001. An Arabic cabal on a religiously-inspired suicide mission has spectacularly murdered almost three thousand American citizens in the very heart of a country we considered safe, and they vow to keep doing it. Will you really say, “My fellow Americans, I know this was a severe loss but this is a big country. They only killed one thousandth of one percent of us. Let’s just ignore them and maybe they’ll go away.” Not too satisfying, IMO.

                I read the other day that the drug wars in Mexico have abated significantly and that businesses are becoming prosperous again despite all the killings. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not all that hopeless to think that cultures can be shaped.


                • Well, I’d say the 9-11 response could and should have been to prosecute it for what it was–a crime. Britain and Spain successfully responded to their own terrorist attacks in this way. I don’t believe there was a need to declare an endless war on terror; there was no need to deem terrorists as larger-than-life “enemy combatants” and sequester them at Guantanamo, asserting they were bogeymen too powerful and frightening to try on US soil using normal legal channels. I believe the administration deliberately took advantage of the situation generated by the attacks to create an atmosphere of domestic hysteria, permitting passage of legislation that curtailed civil liberties and the relatively unopposed invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, a disastrous policy on all counts.


                • That’s interesting. Lord knows I agree with you that “W” led the country into a terrible over-reaction to 9/11, but I wasn’t aware that Britain and Spain treated it as a crime problem, nor that they were “successful”, however you define that. We got OBL, they didn’t. We got hundreds of al Qaeda, did they? I know that Britain is our principal partner in Iraq (following W blindly to war with the wrong country) and Afghanistan.

                  I like your idea but it seems to me that making it a police problem would be ineffective because of the lack of any effective international police force. InterPol is not that of course, it’s basically an administrative clearing house, not an operational force.


                • As we keep posting to this thread, pretty soon we’ll have enough material for a book, Jim πŸ™‚ By “successful”, I meant Britain and Spain used their already-existing legal and law enforcement infrastructure, and the perpetrators were tried in regular courts. In contrast, the US developed a new and alternative prosecutorial system, with the power of indefinite detention, torture, extraordinary rendition, trial by military commission, etc. And yes, the US got OBL, but as for the hundreds of al Qaeda you refer to, the US has admitted to killing innocent civilians with drone attacks, which brings us back to the Hydra problem I mentioned in my earlier comment. Is it worth it? I think not, but of course it’s a judgment call.


                • Agreed, ojmo. I respect your opinion, and history will judge.


                • Thanks, Jim–you challenge me to try to make some sense out of the jumble of thoughts in my head…




    • It’s troubling that we get all excited over how effective these military technologies are when used against foreign enemies, but forget they can be used just as easily against the domestic population.


    • Indeed Jay. Rulers throughout history understood fear to be a powerful tool once instilled in a population. The challenge for a modern society is to movve beyond that subterfuge and seek other ways to enforce common purpose.

      Just ssee much of Europe, Australia, Canada etc – they’ve managed it.


  4. Love the title of the post!


  5. This is why these days I always make sure to look my best, even when I’m at home…you never know when a drone might be passing overhead πŸ˜‰


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