Rise of the Machines: The Drones Are Here to Stay


The Americans are doing it, the French are doing it, even the Germans are at it too and they're coming to your neighborhood police department soon. We've entered the age of the Drones. You can even buy civilian versions at Radio Shack, come on...everybody's doing it.

Military units all over the planet have been using these drones for more than a decade, typically in the form of radio controlled aircraft and helicopters equipped with surveillance tools. Originally they were used for reconnaissance, little spy cameras in the sky collecting intelligence ahead of incursions; they were a stealthy method with little risk to operators and combatants.

The logical next step was to arm them and send them in for surgical strikes, small, precise, and expendable. Aerial drones have been in the news lately as the Obama administration's method of choice for taking out terrorist targets like Anwar al-Awlaki. John Brennan who's in-line as a possible future director of the CIA, continues to make the case that drone-strikes achieve long-term military objectives with a monumental reduction in civilian "collateral damage."

There certainly is no moral difference between using a human-operated RC plane to kill someone the president has put a hit on. With the targeted-killing of Bin Laden, Obama may have opted for old-school special forces theatrics but his position makes it clear that regardless of what country you're in, whether by bomb dropping drone or Ghost Recon, they're gonna do what they're gonna do, international law be damned.

We'll leave that for now as it's another issue for the UN to discuss and do nothing about. The real cause for concern is the emigration of drones from the military to local police organizations, which has already begun in earnest. In Canada, the RCMP has already started slapping cameras onto RC helicopters and flying them around looking for grow-ops and people sunbathing on their roof.

Nothing spells out "Fuck your rights" like a fat, white, cop holding a piece of technology, the moral and legal implications of which escape even him.

Some disturbing questions are now presented to us about the continued erosion of privacy. Do the police need a warrant to hover at tree-top level over your swimming pool? How small can the smallest drone be that zips between buildings in the downtown. Will we even know they're there? Will we have to assume that there are pigeon-sized robots watching us undress from the balcony with a video feed to that pizza delivery truck that's been parked across the street for three days? DO I SOUND PARANOID?

You can argue that between your cellphone, debit card, and that tracking chip they put into your blood through the flu-shot, that privacy continues to slip away a little more everyday so what does it matter how far it goes? You're on camera wherever you shop and you regularly volunteer so much information on a daily basis that identity theft is now an actual concern.

It's up to you how much you choose to make available and maybe I am over-emphasizing the interest law-enforcement will have in the average citizen. In fairness, just based on their previous interest in anyone involved in G20 summits demonstrators, Occupy Protests, and plastering anything they label "hate-speech" on the internet, it's not completely out of the question that individual rights are occasionally trampled upon.

So if you hear the whirring of small engines zipping around your apartment late at night, shut the lights off, draw the heavy black curtains, and load the BB Gun because if they can float by your window unannounced, surely you can practice a little skeet-shooting in the evening.

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