February 27, 2012
Heads up: Drones are going mainstream.
Unmanned military aircraft have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia. Their civilian cousins are now in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.
Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.
Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground.
Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.
The Federal Aviation Administration must write rules allowing civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by September 2015.
February 10, 2012
By Paul Joseph Watson
The Department of Homeland Security plans to spend up to $50 million dollars on a spy system that has been used to hunt insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan for the purposes of “emergency and non-emergency incidents” within the United States.
The DHS is seeking four contractors to provide “aerial remote sensing” services, using LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology fitted to drones or manned aircraft that will provide surveillance capability for “homeland security missions,” as well as “management of emergency incidents by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regional offices, joint field offices and by state and local government.”
“DHS believes these airborne images are essential for homeland defense missions, such as planning for National Special Security Events (Super Bowls or a national political conventions come to mind); enhancing border, port and airport security; as well as performing critical infrastructure inventories and assessments,” reports Government Security News, adding that the technology will be used for “emergency and non-emergency incidents nationwide.”
The DHS expects successful contractors to “ensure imagery can be acquired, processed and delivered in 48 hours or less and the ability to support simultaneous missions in multiple geographic locations.”
LIDAR spy technology, which uses ultraviolet, visible, or near infrared light to track objects or people from the sky, has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan to track insurgents. The US military has praised the technology for its proficiency in providing “battlefield surveillance” and being able to easily locate enemy combatants due to it being “especially useful at seeing through foliage.” LIDAR can be deployed using both manned and unmanned aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force “has already deployed an unknown number of LIDAR aircraft to map all of Afghanistan,” reports MSNBC, with the 3-D laser mapping technology also being adapted to work aboard U.S. Special Forces helicopters such as the Blackhawk or Chinook to help hunt insurgents.
According to Raytheon, one of the companies that develops LIDAR, the technology is adept at tracking “people in crowded environments for safety and security,” because unlike traditional surveillance methods, LIDAR is honed to measure characteristics of individuals and keep them tracked within a “grid cell” so they cannot evade detection.
Under the terms of the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, the whole of America has been defined as a battlefield, with the government reserving the power to have “belligerents,” including American citizens, arrested and detained indefinitely without trial.
January 27, 2012
CBS New York
They’re used in war zones for surveillance and military strikes.
But are there plans to deploy drones in the Big Apple to keep an eye on New Yorkers?
More and more people believe it’s inevitable, reports CBS 2’s Don Dahler.
Drones are unmanned aircraft that can fly at low altitudes and shoot live video — or shoot live missiles.
Surveillance cameras already dot the city’s streets, but is the NYPD exploring the use of even more eyes in the skies, in the form of drones? Some evidence points to yes.
A website named Gay City News posted an e-mail it says it acquired through the Freedom of Information Act. It’s purportedly from a detective in the NYPD counterterrorism division, asking the Federal Aviation Administration about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles as a law enforcement tool.
And the following is part of a recent interview with Commission Ray Kelly that raised more questions than it answered.
“In an extreme situation, you would have some means to take down a plane,” Kelly told “60 Minutes.”
Drones are already being used by law enforcement in other cities. CBS 2 has obtained footage of a huge protest in Poland a few months ago, shot by a small drone that could fly a few dozen feet right over the heads of the crowd and the police. High-resolution cameras can capture every detail, including faces and license plate numbers. In this country, Miami and several cities in Texas are experimenting with such aircraft.
Wall Street Journal
By Charles Levinson
Sixty years of near-constant war, a low tolerance for enduring casualties in conflict, and its high-tech industry have long made Israel one of the world’s leading innovators of military robotics.
WSJ’s Charles Levinson reports from Jerusalem to discuss Israel’s development of robotic, unmanned combat systems. He tells Simon Constable on the News Hub how they are deploying unmanned boats, ground vehicles and aerial vehicles.
“We’re trying to get to unmanned vehicles everywhere on the battlefield for each platoon in the field,” says Lt. Col. Oren Berebbi, head of the Israel Defense Forces’ technology branch. “We can do more and more missions without putting a soldier at risk.”
In 10 to 15 years, one-third of Israel’s military machines will be unmanned, predicts Giora Katz, vice president of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., one of Israel’s leading weapons manufacturers.
“We are moving into the robotic era,” says Mr. Katz.
Over 40 countries have military-robotics programs today. The U.S. and much of the rest of the world is betting big on the role of aerial drones: Even Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite guerrilla force in Lebanon, flew four Iranian-made drones against Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it had just a handful of drones. Today, U.S. forces have around 7,000 unmanned vehicles in the air and an additional 12,000 on the ground, used for tasks including reconnaissance, airstrikes and bomb disposal.
In 2009, for the first time, the U.S. Air Force trained more “pilots” for unmanned aircraft than for manned fighters and bombers.
U.S. and Japanese robotics programs rival Israel’s technological know-how, but Israel has shown it can move quickly to develop and deploy new devices, to meet battlefield needs, military officials say.
“The Israelis do it differently, not because they’re more clever than we are, but because they live in a tough neighborhood and need to respond fast to operational issues,” says Thomas Tate, a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who now oversees defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
Among the recently deployed technologies that set Israel ahead of the curve is the Guardium unmanned ground vehicle, which now drives itself along the Gaza and Lebanese borders. The Guardium was deployed to patrol for infiltrators in the wake of the abduction of soldiers doing the same job in 2006. The Guardium, developed by G-nius Ltd., is essentially an armored off-road golf cart with a suite of optical sensors and surveillance gear. It was put into the field for the first time 10 months ago.
In the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli soldiers took a beating opening supply routes and ferrying food and ammunition through hostile territory to the front lines. In the Gaza conflict in January 2009, Israel unveiled remote-controlled bulldozers to help address that issue.
Israel pioneered the use of aerial drones like the Heron, under construction, above, at Israeli Aerospace Industries.
Within the next year, Israeli engineers expect to deploy the voice-commanded, six-wheeled Rex robot, capable of carrying 550 pounds of gear alongside advancing infantry.
After bomb-laden fishing boats tried to take out an Israeli Navy frigate off the coast off Gaza in 2002, Rafael designed the Protector SV, an unmanned, heavily armed speedboat that today makes up a growing part of the Israeli naval fleet. The Singapore Navy has also purchased the boat and is using it in patrols in the Persian Gulf.
After Syrian missile batteries in Lebanon took a heavy toll on Israeli fighter jets in the 1973 war, Israel developed the first modern unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.
When Israel next invaded Lebanon in 1981, the real-time images provided by those unmanned aircraft helped Israel wipe out Syrian air defenses, without a single downed pilot. The world, including the U.S., took notice.
The Pentagon set aside its long-held skepticism about the advantages of unmanned aircraft and, in the early 1980s, bought a prototype designed by former Israeli Air Force engineer Abraham Karem. That prototype morphed into the modern-day Predator, which is made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.
Unlike the U.S. and other militaries, where UAVs are flown by certified, costly-to-train fighter pilots, Israeli defense companies have recently built their UAVs to allow an average 18-year-old recruit with just a few months’ training to pilot them.
Military analysts say unmanned fighting vehicles could have a far-reaching strategic impact on the sort of asymmetrical conflicts the U.S. is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Israel faces against enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
In such conflicts, robotic vehicles will allow modern conventional armies to minimize the advantages guerrilla opponents gain by their increased willingness to sacrifice their lives in order to inflict casualties on the enemy.
However, there are also fears that when countries no longer fear losing soldiers’ lives in combat thanks to the ability to wage war with unmanned vehicles, they may prove more willing to initiate conflict.
In coming years, engineers say unmanned air, sea and ground vehicles will increasingly work together without any human involvement. Israel and the U.S. have already faced backlash over civilian deaths caused by drone-fired missiles in Gaza, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those ethical dilemmas could increase as robots become more independent of their human masters.
June 18, 2009
News Watch 50
A monitor inside an operations trailer shows a close-up view of a boat skimming across the water on Lake Ontario.
The image was taken from an unmanned aircraft more than three miles away.
A Predator B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) has been temporarily based at Fort Drum since early June in an experiment by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office.
The Department of Homeland Security is using the extensive restricted air space over Fort Drum to test whether the drone could be a good fit along this stretch of the northern border.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has five of the aircraft but so far none of them based permanently in the Northeast.
The Predator will operate out of Fort Drum for about three weeks for testing and training, and to evaluate its use to law enforcement.
John Stanton, director of CPB’s Office of Air and Marine, said state, provincial and local law enforcement agencies were quick to take up the offer of added surveillance of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
“So while we were flying, we were asked by our partner law enforcement agencies if we would be kind enough to be on the lookout for suspicious activities,” Stanton said.
The surveillance also includes the land border between the U.S. and Canada after the border peels away from the St. Lawrence River.
By flying in restricted air space at 19,000 feet, the Predator avoids lower-level air traffic, cutting the risk of collisions, Stanton said.
The aircraft is virtually identical to Predators used by the military, with the exception of lower-power engine and no weapons, he said.