Drones are becoming quite popular for individuals and governments. I haven’t spent enough time talking about drones – their popularity is growing rapidly.
Cheap drones for individuals
For a few hundred dollars you can buy an easy-to-fly drone that can stream HD feed to your smart phone. That according to the video at Spying eyes or a bit of fun, drones fly off the shelves at Sydney Morning Herald.
Extend that thought – once streamed to your smart phone, you can record the video feed and post anywhere you like, say YouTube.
For the moment there are serious operational limits. The drones are only powerful enough to get 30 feet in the air and radio power limits them to a distance of about 150 feet. Obviously, those limits will change soon.
Even with those limits, there are major privacy issues that our society has not even started to grapple with.
High end UAVs for governments
Most governments in Europe, South America, Northern Africa and Asia operate unarmed UAVs, while only a few sub-saharan governments do. That according to a map in a feature article at National Journal – When the Whole World Has Drones.
The article covers lots of ground and highlights that the low-cost, ease, and lack of human presence in the UAV makes it possible for increasing numbers of governments to use UAVs. More seriously, the threshold for using one is dropping, and the downside risks are very low.
The article says seventy-five countries operate UAVs and fifty countries are building close to a thousand different models
All those factors lower the threshold and risk of using deadly force, although it is likely only the U.S. has the ability to do so at this moment.
While many countries are developing the ability to operate UAVs, only the U.S. has the resources and capabilities to project deadly force over great distances. Sources for the article point out no one else has the ability, money, or need, to put armed drones at a distance (say Afghanistan or Mali), and provide a live feed to Nevada, where there is a team of dozens or hundreds analyzing the data, who in turn feed actionable intel back to forces near the target.
Pay close attention to the concept there aren’t very many countries or non-state actors who need to project power very far.
The article quotes one person saying there are around 200 people involved in one Predator or Reaper flight.
Lots of discussion of legal issues and precedents.
Articles in the last few days indicate China is developing drones with firepower similar to the US Predator.
If you are interested in drones and UAVs, check out all the articles.