November 14, 2010

Governments Using Drones Designed for Military Use Against the Citizens in Significant Expansion of Covert State Surveillance

High Tech Spy Drones

Our study shows that the 114 reported drone strikes in northwest Pakistan from 2004 to the present have killed between 830 and 1,210 individuals, of whom around 550 to 850 were described as militants in reliable press accounts, about two-thirds of the total on average. Thus, the true civilian fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 32 percent. - Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2010, Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative Policy Paper, February 24, 2010

Locust Blog
November 10, 2010

The Daily Mail reports:
“A new arms race is on and it could change everything from the way we parent to how we get our celebrity gossip. For the technology currently being used by the CIA to ferret out terrorist leaders in the hills of Pakistan is set to arrive in a neighbourhood near you – and there’s nowhere to hide.

“Personal drones – smaller, private versions of the infamous Predator – are the next hot technology for people looking to track celebrities, cheating lovers, or even wildlife. And it could be a dream tool for the paparazzi, named after the Italian for buzzing mosquitoes. Now the metaphor is coming to life.

“Several personal drones are scheduled for completion next year.”
England already has literally thousands of cameras watching people as they move around in public. Flying mini-drones that can chase people around is definitely something new. If they’re used to track down muggers in the Black slums of London, then that would be a plus.

I wonder if anyone in the government surveillance offices ever notices how many crimes are being committed by non-Whites against White victims.

The article continues:
“A police constable in Liverpool tries out the force’s new remote-controlled UAV. Liverpool police have already used such drones to make at least one arrest. The officer can see from the drone’s perspective using a special pair of goggles. Already in the UK police are using drones to track thieves.

“In February, the Air Robot was deployed by Merseyside police after officers lost an alleged car thief who had escaped on foot in thick fog. Using the device’s on-board camera and thermal-imaging technology, the operator was able to pick up the suspect through his body heat and direct foot patrols to his location. It led officers to a 16-year-old youth, who was hiding in bushes alongside the Leeds-Liverpool canal, in Litherland, Merseyside.

“The drone, which measures 3ft between the tips of its four carbon fibre rotor blades, uses unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology originally designed for military reconnaissance. The battery-powered device can have a range of cameras attached to its main body, including CCTV surveillance or thermal imaging cameras.

“It is designed to hover almost silently above crime scenes and send live footage to officers on the ground, but the unit can also ‘perch and stare’ from a solid platform, allowing the operator to capture hours of footage from a hidden vantage point.”
Perhaps the government of England could put the video of these police chases on television so ordinary Brits can get a realistic idea of who’s committing all the crime in their brand new Diverse society.

After about two years of watching Africans and Jamaicans snatcing purses, beating up elderly White people and stealing everything that’s not nailed down, perhaps the White people of Britain will stop supporting the Labor and Conservative parties and start switching over to the British Nationalist Party so they can finally do something about the serious racial problems that are growing worse every year.

Spy Drones Will Monitor U.K. Citizens

United Press International
January 23, 2010

Camera-equipped drones, developed by the British military for use in war, will be used in England to keep an eye on civilians from the sky, officials say.

Police in Kent and Essex counties plan to start using them in 2012 for routine monitoring of motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and illegal dumping, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.

Collaboration between the police departments and BAE Systems, maker of the drones, began in 2007, the Telegraph said.

A prototype for police use is expected to fly this year. Its high-resolution cameras can capture images from 20,000 feet.
"Fully autonomous unmanned air systems could be routinely used by border agencies, the police and other government bodies," BAE spokesman Andrew Mellors said.
Unlike manned police helicopters, which can fly for only a few hours, the drones can remain aloft for up to 15 hours, the Telegraph reported.
"These systems will be fully autonomous so that operators task the vehicles and receive the relevant imagery and intelligence direct to the ground control station in real time," Mellors said.

CCTV in the Sky: Police Plan to Use Spy Drones

Arms manufacturer BAE Systems developing national strategy with consortium of government agencies

January 22, 2010

Police in the UK are planning to use unmanned spy drones, controversially deployed in Afghanistan, for the ­"routine" monitoring of antisocial motorists, ­protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance.

The arms manufacturer BAE Systems, which produces a range of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for war zones, is adapting the military-style planes for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police.

Documents from the South Coast Partnership, a Home Office-backed project in which Kent police and others are developing a national drone plan with BAE, have been obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.

They reveal the partnership intends to begin using the drones in time for the 2012 Olympics. They also indicate that police claims that the technology will be used for maritime surveillance fall well short of their intended use – which could span a range of police activity – and that officers have talked about selling the surveillance data to private companies. A prototype drone equipped with high-powered cameras and sensors is set to take to the skies for test flights later this year.

The Civil Aviation Authority, which regulates UK airspace, has been told by BAE and Kent police that civilian UAVs would "greatly extend" the government's surveillance capacity and "revolutionise policing". The CAA is currently reluctant to license UAVs in normal airspace because of the risk of collisions with other aircraft, but adequate "sense and avoid" systems for drones are only a few years away.

Five other police forces have signed up to the scheme, which is considered a pilot preceding the countrywide adoption of the technology for "surveillance, monitoring and evidence gathering".  The partnership's stated mission is to introduce drones "into the routine work of the police, border authorities and other government agencies" across the UK.

Concerned about the slow pace of progress of licensing issues, Kent police's assistant chief constable, Allyn Thomas, wrote to the CAA last March arguing that military drones would be useful "in the policing of major events, whether they be protests or the ­Olympics". He said interest in their use in the UK had "developed after the terrorist attack in Mumbai".

Stressing that he was not seeking to interfere with the regulatory process, Thomas pointed out that there was "rather more urgency in the work since Mumbai and we have a clear deadline of the 2012 Olympics".

BAE drones are programmed to take off and land on their own, stay airborne for up to 15 hours and reach heights of 20,000 ft, making them invisible from the ground.

Far more sophisticated than the remote-controlled rotor-blade robots that hover 50-metres above the ground – which police already use – BAE UAVs are programmed to undertake specific operations. They can, for example, deviate from a routine flightpath after encountering suspicious ­activity on the ground, or undertake numerous reconnaissance tasks simultaneously.

The surveillance data is fed back to control rooms via monitoring equipment such as high-definition cameras, radar devices and infrared sensors.

Previously, Kent police has said the drone scheme was intended for use over the English Channel to monitor shipping and detect immigrants crossing from France. However, the documents suggest the maritime focus was, at least in part, a public relations strategy designed to minimise civil liberty concerns.
"There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a 'good news' story to the public rather than more 'big brother'," a minute from the one of the earliest meetings, in July 2007, states.
Behind closed doors, the scope for UAVs has expanded significantly. Working with various policing organisations as well as the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Maritime and Fisheries Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Border Agency, BAE and Kent police have drawn up wider lists of potential uses.

One document lists "[detecting] theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors and monitoring antisocial driving" as future tasks for police drones, while another states the aircraft could be used for road and railway monitoring, search and rescue, event security and covert urban surveillance.

Under a section entitled "Other routine tasks (Local Councils) – surveillance", another document states the drones could be used to combat "fly-posting, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles, abnormal loads, waste management".

Senior officers have conceded there will be "large capital costs" involved in buying the drones, but argue this will be shared by various government agencies. They also say unmanned aircraft are no more intrusive than CCTV cameras and far cheaper to run than helicopters.

Partnership officials have said the UAVs could raise revenue from private companies. At one strategy meeting it was proposed the aircraft could undertake commercial work during spare time to offset some of the running costs.

There are two models of BAE drone under consideration, neither of which has been licensed to fly in non-segregated airspace by the CAA. The Herti (High Endurance Rapid Technology Insertion) is a five-metre long aircraft that the Ministry of Defence deployed in Afghanistan for tests in 2007 and 2009.

CAA officials are sceptical that any Herti-type drone manufacturer can develop the technology to make them airworthy for the UK before 2015 at the earliest. However the South Coast Partnership has set its sights on another BAE prototype drone, the GA22 airship, developed by Lindstrand Technologies which would be subject to different regulations. BAE and Kent police believe the 22-metre long airship could be certified for civilian use by 2012.

Military drones have been used extensively by the US to assist reconnaissance and airstrikes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But their use in war zones has been blamed for high civilian death tolls.

Police Buy Military Drones to Fly over U.S. Cities

January 7, 2011

America's dangerous "spy drones" which prowl the sky in Kandahar, Waziristan in Afghanistan, and are sometimes used to drop bombs in conflicted areas in Pakistan, are soon to become a part of Miami, Florida, skies as well.

The Miami-Dade Police Department has struck a deal with Honeywell, a firm which manufactures and sells drones, to buy a drone. The Miami police director said that they are very eager to have an eye up in the sky, not for spying but for surveillance to keep the people safe. He said that the drone will help them do things they have to do in a better way.

However, some of the Miami residents do not see this as a good thing and are not happy about it because they have privacy concerns. But, the executive director of the police department says that they will have strict rules to govern its usage so that the people’s privacy can not be interfered with. He says that they know that all the latest technology has the power to threaten people’s privacy but it depends on the way it is used.

Honeywell has also applied to the FAA for clearance to fly the drone in urban areas, something that’s never been allowed before but the Florida ACLU says that they are okay with the 20-pound drone, which can fly for 40 minutes at heights of up to 10,500 feet.

T-hawk Drone Coming to Miami-Dade

Police spy in the sky fuels 'Big Brother' fears as Drones come to Miami-Dade, Florida

January 7, 2011

MDPD purchased a drone named T-hawk from defense firm Honeywell to assist with the department's Special Response Team's operations. The 20-pound drone can fly for 40 minutes, reach heights of 10,500 feet and cruise in the air at 46 miles an hour.
"It gives us a good opportunity to have an eye up there. Not a surveilling eye, not a spying eye. Let's make the distinction. A surveilling eye to help us to do the things we need to do, honestly, to keep people safe," said Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus. WSVN-TV

Domestic “Spy in the Sky” Coming to Miami-Dade

January 7, 2011

Lake Minnetonka Liberty - Hey! Didn’t we just touch on this in a post about the Houston Police Dept. last year? Sure we did. I believe I pointed out that once this program is underway, it will spread like cancer. Now we have Miami-Dade coming in to the fold, how many others? As of now, we don’t know. But there are others.

Contrary to the adamant propaganda from law enforcement, this will indeed be used to spy on the citizens. If they (government) tells you otherwise, they are lying. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. And if you have a toy like this, you are going to play with it. It’s human nature. Good intentions aren’t worth the paper they are written on. It always starts with good intentions, and it never ends with good intentions.
DORAL, Fla. (WSVN) — A new piece of technology may soon be coming to South Florida, but is already raising concerns from residents.

The Miami-Dade Police Department recently finalized a deal to buy a drone, which is an unmanned plane that is equipped with cameras. Drones have been used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war against terror.

Many residents are concerned that the new technology will violate their privacy.

Miami-Dade Police Buy Drones

Miami New Times
January 4, 2011

In places such as Kabul, Gaza, and Baghdad, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) hovering over homes, following suspects, and tracking enemies of the state are a daily reality. So where are the high-tech drones buzzing to next? Miami-Dade County, natch!

The Miami-Dade Police Department is poised to become the first large metro force using drones in its aerial missions. The department finalized a deal to buy a drone called T-Hawk from defense firm Honeywell and officially applied for permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month to begin flying it around the county.

What’s not clear is how cops will sort out the raft of thorny privacy questions hovering around plans for using this powerful, new eye in the sky.
“At this point, it doesn’t really matter if you’re against this technology, because it’s coming,” says P. W. Singer, author of Wired for War and an expert on drones. “The precedent that is set in Miami could be huge.”
Drones, or UAVs, have exploded in popularity over the past five years. As Singer writes in his book, the military barely used the technology during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now the Army and Air Force have more than 7,000 drones overseas, and 44 other countries use the devices.

But Miami-Dade is blazing new territory for civilian law enforcement agencies. Cops inHouston have tested UAVs, and a sheriff’s office in Colorado has a drone to look for stranded hikers. But no one has deployed a drone in a large metro area.
“Miami-Dade is really at the front of this trend,” says Lindsay Voss, a researcher with theAssociation for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), a trade group.
MDPD is keeping the details of its deal with Honeywell quiet. The department didn’t respond to Riptide’s Freedom of Information Act request about the contract, but sources confirm the drone purchased is Honeywell’s T-Hawk.

The 20-pound drone, which resembles a hovering Roomba vacuum with cameras mounted on the sides, can fly for 40 minutes at a time, reach 10,500 feet, and cruise at up to 46 mph, according to one analysis.

The FAA has never approved a drone for regular flight in an urban area, and it’s not clear how long it will take the department to get full clearance.

When that happens, MDPD will likely deploy the aircraft with its Special Response Teams. Packing powerful cameras, the drone could track suspects, sweep past houses, and peep through windows. Boosters say the gadget will keep the 305 safer.
“We’ve seen over in Iraq and Afghanistan, where troops have needed eye in sky, it’s been enormously beneficial,” Voss says. “Those same qualities can help cities too.”
But drones have also stirred up strident criticism from human rights groups, which say the overseas robots bomb indiscriminately and violate basic rights. Amnesty Internationalrecently condemned Israel‘s smothering use of drones for surveillance in Gaza.

That might seem far-fetched in Miami-Dade — but politicians, police, and lawyers will soon have a whole new realm of privacy issues to fight about.
“All the legal and political and ethical… complications and questions we have to figure out are enormous,” Singer says. “What seemed like science fiction just a few years ago is becoming reality.”

T Hawk Autonomous Flying Robot Saves Lives

HighTech EDGE
March 22, 2009

Honeywell's T-Hawk RQ-16 drone, an autonomous micro air vehicle with hover and stare capabilities, is saving the lives of soldiers stationed in Afghanistan....

The British Ministry of Defense has employed a new device designed Honeywell T-Hawk Autonomous Drone to minimize casualties in the search for IEDs, land mines and roadside bombs.

The T-Hawk RQ-16, a small autonomous drone, offers hover and stare capabilities enabling close reconnaissance and scrutiny of potential threats without exposing the soldier to unnecessary risk.

Developed by Honeywell and named after the Tarantula Hawk that swoops down on the poisonous spiders in the desert, this micro air vehicle uses a fan duct engine to hover anywhere from inches to hundreds of feet above the ground. It weighs 17lbs, is 14″ in diameter, has a top speed of 46 mph, and can be easily launched from a backpack or vehicle.

The T-Hawk can fly for up 50 minutes autonomously, and if the operator sees anything suspicious, they can take control and zoom in for a closer look.

The device, which costs around the price of a luxury car, weighs less than 20lbs and comes equipped with day and infra-red cameras that relay information back to soldiers using a hand-held receiver ...

With Air Force's New Drone, 'We Can See Everything'

There are around 140,000 international troops fighting the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, around two-thirds of them from the United States.

The Washington Post
January 2, 2011

In ancient times, Gorgon was a mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them. In modern times, Gorgon may be one of the military's most valuable new tools.

This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town.

The system, made up of nine video cameras mounted on a remotely piloted aircraft, can transmit live images to soldiers on the ground or to analysts tracking enemy movements. It can send up to 65 different images to different users; by contrast, Air Force drones today shoot video from a single camera over a "soda straw" area the size of a building or two.

With the new tool, analysts will no longer have to guess where to point the camera, said Maj. Gen. James O. Poss, the Air Force's assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
"Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, so there will be no way for the adversary to know what we're looking at, and we can see everything."
Questions persist, however, about whether the military has the capability to sift through huge quantities of imagery quickly enough to convey useful data to troops in the field.

Officials also acknowledge that Gorgon Stare is of limited value unless they can match it with improved human intelligence -- eyewitness reports of who is doing what on the ground.

The Air Force is exponentially increasing surveillance across Afghanistan. The monthly number of unmanned and manned aircraft surveillance sorties has more than doubled since last January, and quadrupled since the beginning of 2009.

Indeed, officials say, they cannot keep pace with the demand.
"I have yet to go a week in my job here without having a request for more Air Force surveillance out there," Poss said.
But adding Gorgon Stare will also generate oceans of more data to process.
"Today an analyst sits there and stares at Death TV for hours on end, trying to find the single target or see something move," Gen. James E. Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a conference in New Orleans in November. "It's just a waste of manpower."
The hunger for these high-tech tools was evident at the conference, where officials told several thousand industry and intelligence officials they had to move "at the speed of war." Cartwright pressed for solutions, even partial ones, in a year or less.

The development of Gorgon Stare began about 18 months ago. It is based on the work of Air Force scientists who came up with the idea of stitching together views from multiple cameras shooting two frames per second at half-meter resolution. Currently full-motion video is shot at 30 frames per second from one camera mounted on a Predator or the larger Reaper drone. That makes for more fluid video, but also more difficulty in assembling frames quickly to get the wide-area view.

Technological advances now make it possible for a soldier on the ground to receive any portion of a panoramic view in real time, streamed to a portable device about the size of an iPad, Poss said. At the same time, nine other soldiers can get the same or a different view. The images will be stored so analysts can study them to determine, for instance, who planted an improvised bomb or what the patterns of life in a village are.

The Air Force has also taken tips from the purveyors of pop culture. It is working with Harris Corp. to adapt ESPN's technique of tagging key moments in National Football League videotape to the war zone. Just as a sportscaster can call up a series of archived quarterback blitzes as soon as a player is sacked on the field, an analyst in Afghanistan can retrieve the last month's worth of bombings in a particular stretch of road with the push of a button, officials said.

The Air Force placed a contractor on the set of a reality TV show to learn how to pick out the interesting scenes shot from cameras simultaneously recording the action in a house. And taking a page from high-tech companies such as Google, the Air Force will store its reams of video on servers placed in used shipping containers in Iowa.

The Air Force is looking to mount wide-area surveillance cameras on airships that can stay aloft for up to two weeks.
"This is all cutting-edge technology that is being fielded in a short period of time," said retired Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, who served as deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

"If you look into the not-too-distant future, what these technologies will allow us to do is remove more and more ground forces and replace them with sensors where we normally would have to rely on people going somewhere to find something out," he said.
But other military officials caution that a counterinsurgency requires an understanding of the local population.
"That really only comes from human intelligence or boots on the ground," said Army Col. Steven A. Beckman, the former intelligence chief for coalition forces in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

"We can get the 3-D geo-intelligence that tells us what every building, what every street looks like in Marja," he said at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation conference in New Orleans in November. But such intelligence needs to be "underpinned by a degree of local knowledge . . . to enable us to maximize that."
Beckman called full-motion video "the crack cocaine of our ground forces" -- but often, he said, it's a technology that is poorly utilized. He noted in an interview that he is an advocate of the technology but that in some cases, other tools might be a better solution for a commander's needs.

Marine Capt. Matt Pottinger, who collaborated on "Fixing Intel," an official critique of the intelligence effort in Afghanistan issued a year ago, said he found a disconnect between the intelligence requests for aerial surveillance issued by commanders in regional headquarters and the needs of the soldiers or Marines at the platoon level.
"Often what the guys need it for is not to stare at some highway for five hours because they want to drop a bomb on some guy they see coming out to dig a hole in the ground to plant an IED," he said. "Oftentimes, the questions that the soldiers and Marines need answered are 'Where's the traffic? Where are the cars going? Are they actually using this strip of desert or completely bypassing this district?' "
Pottinger, a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said analysts in regional headquarters should meet with troops in the field to understand their needs, otherwise all the "whiz-bang" gear will never be used to its full potential.

Gorgon Stare is being tested now, and officials hope it will be fielded within two months. Each $17.5 million pod weighs 1,100 pounds and, because of its configuration, will not be mounted with weapons on Reaper aircraft, officials said. They envision it will have civilian applications, including securing borders and aiding in natural disasters. The Department of Homeland Security is exploring the technology's potential, an industry official said.
Poss said he would "never denigrate the need for good, solid human intelligence because even watching an entire city means nothing unless you can put context to it."

But, he said, "being able to watch an entire city, I'm convinced, is going to have a huge impact on operations in the war zone."

Breath-Taking Aerial Video of New York City – Taken by RC Plane!

Singularity Hub
December 21, 2010

Get ready for a view of New York that would make Spiderman jealous. Expert remote control pilot Raphael “Trappy” Pirker recently took his 54 inch Zephyr model plane on a harrowing tour of Manhattan and the surrounding area. The best part: his RC vehicle was fitted with a camera that wirelessly transmitted an amazing recording of everything it saw – Pirker was piloting his craft with this visual feed.

As you can see in the video below, the results were spectacular. The plane looks to be flying within a few feet of buildings and whizzing past bridges with ease. You have to check out around 2:01 when he starts to buzz the Statue of Liberty. Phenomenal! First person view (FPV) flying is a growing part of the RC community and watching footage like this I can certainly see why. Could the new era of personal video recording be spreading to the sky?

New cameras are making it cheaper and easier to record every moment of your life. We’ve already discussed how this kind of ‘lifelogging’ could be fueled by our fascination with extreme sports and real world adventures. Pirker’s video of Manhattan makes me wonder if FPV flights wouldn’t be an even greater enticement to get people recording and sharing their lives. Watching his Zephyr tour New York certainly makes me want to strap a camera to a RC plane and upload the video to the web:

Of course, Pirker’s attempt is far outside the bounds of any novice like myself. He custom built his “Ritewing” Zephyr (read about the construction here) and fine tuned the controls and video relaying system so that it can perform at absurd ranges. Pirker has tested his RC and video electronics to a distance of 27 miles. According to calculations, the maximum range would be 120 miles! For a FPV RC that’s just insane. Not only is the Zephyr a custom build, Pirker is an expert pilot. He’s tested his skills against sheer mountains, strong winds, and treacherous drops. You can’t take a plane that flies at 80 mph (130 km/h) through a city full of drafts and radio interference and hope to come out in one piece – not unless you are an expert.

It’s the extreme nature of Pirker’s flight that has garnered him praise and condemnation. The Academy of Model Aeronautics issued a statement declaring his flight “posed a significant threat to people and property.” In an interview with FliteTest, Pirker explained that he didn’t violate FAA airspace (the Zephyr was a model craft), and that he and his team took precautions to make sure that the plane wouldn’t fall on innocent people in the case of failure. You can see the full interview in the video below. For those worried that the text “Points Proven = 1″ was some vague reference to terrorism, Pirker explains that it was about a challenge from a fellow FPV pilot who didn’t think he could handle Manhattan. Good to know.

Despite the ethical debate sparked by Pirker’s flight, I think everyone can admit that his footage was absolutely awesome. While his Zephyr and control system are obviously custom built and top of the line, we are still talking about an RC system here. It’s remarkable how advanced systems like this have become, and the cameras and equipment used are still relatively cheap. You or I, if we invested two years of our lives to gain the experience needed, could do what Pirker has done. How much easier will it become in the years ahead. There already are commercially available drones that are simple to fly and that transmit a video signal to your iPhone. Give it some more time and there could be many more people flying cameras through the sky. Sure, that will raise some hard questions about privacy and safety, but it will also lead to some incredible videos. I’ll leave you with one of Pirker’s many clips of his FPV piloting through mountain ranges. Don’t you want to be a part of this?

Watch more of Trappy’s adventures on his YouTube channel.

What Do the 2010 Census, GPS and Drones Have in Common?

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