Online shopping Giant, Amazon has recently unveiled “Prime Air,” a drone delivery system that the company promises will get your order to its customers in 30 minutes or less. Amazon predicts that seeing Prime Air drones will eventually be as common as seeing delivery trucks on the road today.
But does he have a point?
If an Amazon drone were to stumble into the airspace above Phillip Steel’s yard in Deer Trail, Colo., he knows exactly what he’d do: Grab his shotgun. “I would shoot it down, ordinance or no, I would shoot it down,” he tells me over the phone, later adding, “I will shoot it down and go to jail with a smile over my face.”
Deer Trail is one place Amazon probably won’t pilot its “Air Prime” drone delivery system. The town is poised to vote in the next week and a half on an ordinance that will allow drone hunting, an ordinance Steel authored.
That is, the measure will allow citizens of Deer Trail to purchase $25 drone-hunting licenses and then bring pieces of shot-down drones back for a bounty of up to $100. The text of the ordinance oozes with a not-on-my-lawn disdain for the copters. “As such, every unwanted unmanned aerial vehicle is hereby declared a threat to … precious freedom,” it reads. And, yeah, the kids can get in on the drone shooting too. “There shall be no age requirement or restriction for issuance of the hunting license.” No background investigations will be needed to obtain a drone hunting license. It’s that essential of a right.
Perhaps you’ve heard of this. It’s the kind of stunt that gets noticed by the Colbert Report, and that’s kind of the point. Steel’s the type of person to make his case to a town council wearing a cowboy costume and brandishing a plastic nerf rifle. He says he sent a drone-hunting license to Vladimir Putin. He also says he has Edward Snowden’s phone number, but hasn’t called him yet. Last week, he staged a drone-hunting practice session using model rockets in place of UAVs.
"Technology advances far quicker than the law does; as a society we are too eager to embrace the next new toy."
He tells me he spent 14 years in the Army as a Psychological Warfare officer. I asked him what that meant and he summed it up as “propaganda.” And he says he’s using that experience in what he more euphemistically calls “marketing” to get the word out about drones. “I wouldn’t say that I’m a fear monger; I’m trying to illuminate an imminent threat that is on the horizon,” he says. “The perception in the absence of fact becomes reality.”
Basically, he’s creating a farce to make his central point: What does the mass proliferation of drones mean for privacy? For property rights? If a drone flies within 1,000 feet of a person’s airspace, is that a trespass? These are the questions the FAA will have to deal with as it makes recommendations for commercial drone use.
FAA chief Michael Huerta outlined a five-year roadmap last month charting how the agency plans to integrate commercial drones into national airspace, beginning with the announcement of six test site locations by the end of the year. A draft rule is expected early next year, but it is only expected to cover applications for drones that would fly under 400 feet above ground and remain within the visual line of sight of a pilot during daytime. It’s a far cry from the drones Bezos imagines, which would travel up to 10 miles from a distribution center. “You have to pity the poor guy at the FAA,” Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says. “I have this image of some poor guy at the FAA eating his leftover turkey sandwich, watching 60 Minutes and going, ‘oh, crap.’”
"Do I think 1984 is going to happen?" Steel says, downplaying the hyperbole. "Not in the same sense as George Orwell did—but I think its going to be a lot trickier than that, a lot more subtle."
And it’s true: Expansions of technology from retailers have limited the privacy of consumers. There’s that infamous story of Target knowing a teenage girl was pregnant before her father did. But that’s just the tip of a massive industry that rests on selling consumer-behavior profiles (detached from key identifiers, but still, encompassing the shadow of a person’s buying habits).
"Technology advances far quicker than the law does; as a society we are too eager to embrace the next new toy," Steel says. The Supreme Court every year has such a case—can GPS units track cars without a warrant, is a DNA database search an invasion of privacy, and so on. And while the Deer Trail ordinance is a bit of a joke, there are many states that have considered drone privacy laws, to lay the legal groundwork before the technology becomes commonplace.
Amazon has put forth a tantalizing scenario: the skies buzzing with instant gratification. But that’s bound to have some unintended consequences—if it’s even practical.
#Drone - #Drones - #Obama - #DROPTHEDRONE
#MSM - Brandon Bryant: Drone operator followed orders to shoot a child... and decided he had to quit - #DropTheDrone
'Did we just kill a kid?': The moment drone operator who assassinated Afghans with the push of a button on a computer in the U.S. realized he had vaporized a child… and could not go on
A former U.S. drone operator has opened up about the toll of killing scores of innocent people by pressing a button from a control room in New Mexico.
Brandon Bryant, 27, from Missoula, Montana, spent six years in the Air Force operating Predator drones from inside a dark container.
But, after following orders to shoot and kill a child in Afghanistan, he knew he couldn’t keep doing what he was doing and quit the military.
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Too much: Brandon Bryant, 27, pictured, from Missoula, Montana, spent six years in the Air Force operating Predator drones from inside a dark container
'I saw men, women and children die during that time,' he told Spiegel Online.’I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.’
Bryant joined the military by accident when he accompanied a friend who was enlisting in the army and heard that he could go to university for free if he signed up to the Air Force.
He excelled in his course and was assigned to an intelligence collection unit where he soon learned how to control the cameras and lasers on a drone, to analyse ground images, maps and weather data.
He was made a sensor operator, the equivalent of co-pilot, and at just 20 flew his first mission over Iraq - seated in the safety of a control room in Nevada.
Drone operators: A drone pilot, left, and a drone sensor operator practice on a simulator at Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico
But it began to take its toll immediately.
The first time he fired a missile, he killed two men instantly and cried on his way home.
'I felt disconnected from humanity for almost a week,' he said.
But it was an incident when a Predator drone was circling above a flat-roofed house made of mud in Afghanistan, more than 6,250 miles away, that really sticks in his mind.
The hut had a shed used to hold goats and when he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser.
The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.
'These moments are like in slow motion,' he told the website.
As the countdown reached seven seconds, there was no sign of anyone on the ground.
Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point.
But when it was down to three seconds, a child suddenly walked around the corner.
The next thing he saw was a flash on the screen - the explosion. The building collapsed, and the child disappeared.
Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach, he told the website.
'Did we just kill a kid?' he asked the pilot next to him.
'Yeah, I guess that was a kid,' the man replied.
Thoughts jotted in his diary on uneventful days clearly show the heavy burden his job was placing on him.
'On the battlefield there are no sides, just bloodshed. Total war. Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot,' he wrote on one occasion.
He began to shut himself off from his friends, and his girlfriend complained about his bad moods.
'I can't just switch and go back to normal life,' he said to her. He stopped sleeping and began to exercise instead.
Drones: Bryant worked as a sensor operator, the equivalent of a drone co-pilot (stock photo)
One day he collapsed at work, doubling over and spitting blood. The doctor ordered him to stay home, and not to return to work until he could sleep more than four hours a night for two weeks in a row.
'Half a year later, I was back in the cockpit, flying drones,' Bryant told Spiegel Online.
But he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Now Bryant has left the military and is living back at home in Montana where he feels he is slowly recuperating.
'I haven't been dreaming in infrared for four months,' he said with a smile.
VIDEO: Inside the Air Force’s Unmanned Drone Control Center:
A model of a Reaper Drone is pushed past the Duke Energy building as activists marched in the Coalition to March on Wall Street South, a 3-mile march Sunday, September 2, 2012, to spotlight Charlotte as the United States’ second-largest financial center, behind New York. Activists stopped in front of the headquarters of Bank of America and Duke Energy as they took to the streets in downtown Charlotte, site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
A controversial proposal for a joint Australian-US military air base in the Indian Ocean could lead to the launch of drone spy flights across the region, according to officials quoted in Washington.
The proposed base on the Australian-controlled Cocos Islands would form part of a major expansion of ties between Canberra and Washington as the Pentagon looks to shift its forces closer to south-east Asia.
Discussion of the proposal could spark further tensions with China. It comes after the agreement announced by US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November to station up to 2500 US marines in Darwin.