State­side: Chris Smith

Drones are mov­ing from mil­i­tary use to the hands of civil­ians, from home se­cu­rity to hunt­ing. What could pos­si­bly go wrong with that?

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Al­low me to ex­plain the sub­tle dif­fer­ences be­tween the United States of Amer­ica and ’Murica. If democ­racy, free­dom of speech and an un­ri­valled in­no­va­tive spirit em­body the United States, Sarah Palin sym­bol­ises ’Murica. Ba­con­naise is ’Murica. A gun rack em­bla­zoned with the words “We don’t dial 911”, such as the one I saw re­cently? ’Murica.

Ama­zon’s well-pub­li­cised plans to deliver small pack­ages to homes within half an hour us­ing un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles (UAVs) sit proudly in the USA camp, with “Air Prime” vi­sion­ary, pi­o­neer­ing and just a lil’ fan­ci­ful. Else­where it’s been met with, “Nope, can’t be done.” In the US, “Hey, why not?”

Mind you, ’Muri­cans are also get­ting pretty ex­cited about the de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of drone tech, which is pen­cilled in for 2015. The pos­si­bil­i­ties in com­merce, agri­cul­ture, search and res­cue, pho­tog­ra­phy, weather pre­dic­tion and other sci­en­tific en­deav­ours? Well, yadda yadda. These folks are gag­ging to use “de­mil­i­tarised” drones to go ’Murica all over ev­ery­one’s ass.

Take our Taser-happy pals at Chaotic Moon Stu­dios. They used the re­cent SXSW fes­ti­val in Austin, Texas, to in­tro­duce the Chaotic Un­manned Per­sonal In­ter­cept Drone – CU­PID for short. Sweet, but in this case CU­PID’s ar­row is a laser-guided dart that blasts any per­ceived threat with 80,000 volts of good old-fash­ioned elec­tric­ity di­rect to the eroge­nous zones.

For bet­ter or worse, the Sec­ond Amend­ment to the US Con­sti­tu­tion gives the right to bear arms. It’s clung to dearly in some parts but that pas­sion can cou­ple with para­noia when it comes to per­sonal se­cu­rity, with the tragic re­sults we saw har­row­ingly laid bare in the Trayvon Martin case.

Imag­ine card-car­ry­ing NRA folk hav­ing their own per­sonal at­tack drone, join­ing the hand­gun hol­stered to their an­kles 24/7. Doesn’t sound like a good time, does it?

Al­ready, bone­headed hunters are tak­ing their sport a lit­tle far, us­ing drones to track po­ten­tial kills. Some say it’s cruel, oth­ers that it’s cheat­ing. Were guns and cross­bows not enough of an ad­van­tage for you, Bubba?

In Louisiana, they’re do­ing a boom­ing trade in drones equipped with heat-seek­ing cam­eras that help kill feral pigs who keep munch­ing through crops – pest con­trol isn’t hunt­ing, so that’s per­fectly okay, ap­par­ently.

But while bring­ing drones home from the world’s war zones should bring about some life-sav­ing, eye-open­ing, over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive uses for Amer­i­cans, pru­dence will be im­por­tant. Be­cause ’Murica will be keener to use them to pro­tect it­self, and that could lead to a lot of Tasered post­men and law­suits. Well, at least col­lat­eral dam­age from our drones won’t be hap­pen­ing solely in Pak­istan and Afghanistan any­more.

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