A Drone in Every Pot

The FAA is currently reviewing rules for the operation of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) within the United States.  This is a pretty hot topic for a number of reasons.  The currently interested party is law enforcement, but that will soon change.  This is how you will probably see the progress of the UAV’s intrusion into your life.

The local municipalities will immediately invest in a number of these toys for the obvious reason that they are cheaper than a helicopter and provide a better level of service.  For example, UAV’s have the advantage of having a quicker time to flight since pre-flight checks are simplified without the risk of human life. They could in theory be launched from law enforcement headquarters, or satellite locations throughout the city. Also, without the human payload and the supporting structure, they are much lighter, giving a longer time in the air.

Cheaper means that a law enforcement agency can possibly afford 2 or more.  So while they may start out being used for tracking fugitives, they soon will morph to other areas, such a speed monitoring and routine patrols.  Eventually, law enforcement UAV presence will be 24/7.

But the cops aren’t the only ones that get to have all the fun.  Expect the next on the scene to be the news agencies.  Start with traffic, which is very expensive to produce currently and generally sucks compared to online offerings.  A quick UAV flight of major choke points will be a cheaper alternative.  The next progression will likely be breaking news.  At some point in the near future, expect any major crime to have a hornet’s nest of police and news UAVs buzzing around the scene.

So now we have the police and media making serious commercial use of UAV’s, likely to the point where prices start to drop.  There will be a tipping point where it will become financially possible to use UAV’s for advertisement.  At that point, unless there is sufficient rule making, the skies are going to be filled with these flying buggers.

So now that there is a thriving commercial market, technological innovation will advance rapidly.  This will come in three areas.  First, camera optics will advance allowing much better observation.  Second, we will see advancement in power sources, such as fuel cells and batteries.  Third will be the reduction in the size of UAV’s.   Up until now, we have been talking about UAV’s the size of a Piper or Cessna.  When it becomes profitable and power technology is sufficiently advanced, UAV’s will start to shrink.  Once they get less than a couple of feet, society will change radically.

Imagine we have UAV’s the size of a purse.  Privacy in public will be lost.  There will not be a space so small that a UAV will not be able to fill.  How will trespassing laws adapt to UAV’s that can park themselves completely around a building covering every window and door?  With speeds far exceeding any automobile and better maneuverability to boot, you have the ultimate paparazzi. Public conversations would no longer be private. A simple mention of personal information in public could lead to identity theft.  Particularly brazen thieves might employ UAV’s for snatch and grab crimes.

The presence of drones will open a Pandora’s Box for the average citizen.  With their extended reach, the power of the government and commercial interests will intrude upon a great many aspects of our personal lives.  Hopefully, legislators are smart enough to see the storm coming before we have too large of a mess.

The Purveyors of Cyberjustice

It’s official. Anonymous has declared war on Australia. Is the outback ready for the Internet’s grand legion of cellar dwellers at 4chan? This isn’t the first time Anonymous has taken up a cause, and probably not the last. What is interesting is that random, interconnected groups of people are pooling resources and causing havoc for a cause. Vigilante justice isn’t unusual and is older than governments themselves. Which leads one to an interesting thought experiment. On the Internet we see virtual versions of the constructs that are part of our corporeal life; Communication, Gaming, Dating, Sex, etc. It’s a wild west with no form of control or authority and it works pretty well. And now we have Anonymous. Could we be seeing a form of organization emerging from the chaos? The beginning of a permanent anarchical justice force, perhaps?

In the case of 4chan, there is an urge to do something bigger than themselves, either due to outrage or just for the lulz. I have no doubt that in the old west some people joined in on posses for the kicks. And we see that here. Like so many things, the beginnings are a little raw. But through this constructive chaos could we see something bigger than the sum of it’s parts? Several years ago a company created a anti-spam concept called “Blue Frog” that used the power of the Internet collective to rain terror on spammers. It worked for a while, until the company came under attack and folded. The weakness with Blue Frog wasn’t the idea. It was the centralized command and control of that managing organization. But Anonymous doesn’t suffer from this limitation. It is a swarm and essentially headless. And capable of instantly responding when attacked. Spammers and malware authors have the edge in lead time compared to our justice system which is used to prosecute them. Anonymous doesn’t suffer this limitation.

There may be a role for Internet justice in the future. Whether it involves Anonymous is an open question.