HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, BY NICK

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THE WORLD OF SURVEILLANCE HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU Should we worry about the rise of the drone? BY NICK PAUMGARTEN MAY 14, 2012
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1. Jeffrey Toobin: Bratton's Endorsement of Stop-and-Frisk 2. Mina Kaneko and Francoise Mouly: Cover Story: Nelson Mandela, Hero 3. Andy Borowitz: Fast-Food Industry Rejects Workers' Demand to Be Considered Human 4. Nadine Gordimer: Mandela, My Countryman 5. The New Yorker: Nelson Mandela: A Life in Photographs
THE WORLD OF SURVEILLANCE about drones. The prospect of unmanned flight open in browser PRO version Are you a developer? Try out the HTML to PDF API
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has been around--depending on your
definition--since Archytas of Tarentum
reputedly designed a steam-powered
mechanical pigeon, in the fourth century
B.C., or since Nikola Tesla, in 1898,
demonstrated a radio-controlled motorboat
at an exposition in Madison Square
Garden. By the sixties the Air Force was
deploying unmanned reconnaissance jets
over Southeast Asia. Still, it was the
advent, in the mid-nineties, of the Global
positioning system, along with advances in
microcomputing, that ushered in the
possibility of automated unmanned flight. The Department of Defense, meanwhile, developed a keen interest. With the wars in
RELATED LINKS ASK THE AUTHOR: JOIN A LIVE CHAT WITH NICK PAUMGARTEN ABOUT DRONES, ON THURSDAY, MAY 10TH, AT 3 P.M. E.T.
Iraq and Afghanistan, and manhunts in
KEYWORDS
places like Yemen, the military applications, and the corporations devoted to serving them (Lockheed Martin,
DRONES;AEROVIRONMENT;UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES (U.A.V.S);MATT KEENNON; NANO HUMMINGBIRD;TAD MCGEER;INSITU
Northrop Grumman), came to dominate the skyscape. Many of these manufacturers
had one client: the Department of Defense. In 2001, the military had just a few
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (U.A.V.s). Now it has more than ten thousand. Later this
month, the F.A.A. will present a regulatory regimen enabling law-enforcement
departments to fly small drones, and the military contractors will suddenly have
some eighteen thousand potential new customers. As of now, only a tiny percentage
of municipal and state police departments have any air presence, because most can't
afford helicopters or planes. Small camera-loaded U.A.V.s are much cheaper. The
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public proposition, at this point, anyway, is not that drones will subjugate or assassinate unwitting citizens but that they will conduct search-and-rescue operations, fight fires, catch bad guys, inspect pipelines, spray crops, count nesting cranes and migrating caribou, and measure weather data and algae growth. For these and other tasks, they are useful and well suited. Of course, they are especially well suited, and heretofore have been most frequently deployed, for surveillance. "The nature of technology is that it is introduced for one role and then it slippery-slopes into unintended roles," Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution said. Singer believes that the drones will be as transformative as the advent of gunpowder, the steam engine, the automobile, or the computer. "Their intelligence and autonomy is growing," he said. "It used to be that an aerial surveillance plane had to fly close. Now sensors on a U.A.V. can detect a milk carton from sixty thousand feet. The law's not ready for all this." Writer visits the headquarters of drone manufacturer AeroVironment and sees test flights of some of the company's products. Discusses concerns about drones and privacy. Tells about the Nano Hummingbird created by AeroVironment's Nano Lab. Describes other micro aerial vehicles being created at Harvard.
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Nick Paumgarten, The World of Surveillance, "Here's Looking at You," The New Yorker, May 14, 2012, p. 46
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BY NICK

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