How do drones use computational methods such as algorithms to govern your life? Here are ten ways.
Many people think (non-military) drones are only used by hobbyists, and then only to fly small Go-Pro cameras around.
This is mistaken.
Following is a partial listing of other ways drones perform algorithmic calculations on people. All of these are already here. The lesson is not that drones can do this and it’s about drones; rather the lesson is that drones are being used in algorithmic governance more generally.
These are examples from my files. Mostly these are non-military/intelligence usages but that distinction is not entirely tenable given the streams of expertise and knowledge between military and non-military drone research.
- Drones can assess abnormal or “suspicious” behavior.
Japanese security company Secom, starting in December, will offer a surveillance service using drones designed to detect and track suspicious vehicles and people. The drones can also take pictures of license plates and intruders’ faces as they enter factory grounds or shops at night….
Odubiyi said there was urgent need to upgrade and add to the existing 1,000 CCTV cameras in the state to complement the other crime prevention initiatives of the government which include the Security Trust Fund, Street Signage, House Numbering and the provision of three-digit number for emergency calls….
This scheme [ALPR but could equally well be drones] makes, literally, a state issue out of legal travel to arbitrary places deemed by some — but not by a court, and without due process — to be “related” to crime in general, not to any specific crime.
- Drones can monitor the environment using a variety of sensors.
I watched as the drone’s gas monitoring sensor was checked before the aircraft was launched by catapult for a 20-minute flight around the boundaries of the site….
A drone can be nearly any size, from as small as an insect to as large as a 757 passenger jet. It can be outfitted with technologies including high-powered cameras, thermal imaging devices, license plate readers, laser radar, and acoustical eavesdropping, see-through imaging, scent detection, and signals interception devices.
- Drones can physically and forcibly shepherd you, move you along, or prevent your movements. A variety of levels of force can be used.
Some in the law enforcement community, but not all, think there may be a time where it may be appropriate to have non-lethal weapons on a drone—such things as tear gas, pepper spray, etc., where a drone will be able to fly into a location where somebody is firing from a concealed position. Or a barricaded person in the drone would be able to drop a canister of pepper spray or tear gas to get a person to come out of hiding.
- Algorithms will be used in drone traffic management (UTM).
Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, are developing UTM cloud-based software tools in four segments of progressively more capable levels. They design each “technical capability level” for a different operational environment that requires development of proposed uses, software, procedures and policies to enable safe operation, with Technical Capability Level One focusing on a rural environment. With continued development, the Technical Capability Level One system would enable UAS operators to file flight plans reserving airspace for their operations and provide situational awareness about other operations planned in the area.
- Drones are being used by law enforcement and emergency services.
For first responders, surveillance teams and investigators, high-quality aerial imagery provides the real-time intelligence needed to assess a situation immediately, ensure safety on the ground, and capture detailed evidence and forensics.
- Drones are part of Big Data and data analytics.
Keep that in mind as you examine the secret ISR study, and you’ll see that the Pentagon’s drone program uses data analytics in almost precisely the same way IBM encourages corporations to use it to track customers. The only significant difference comes at the very end of the drone process, when the customer is killed.
- Drones–and robots–are being equipped with algorithms that can predict your next move before you even make it.
The algorithm, by two University of Illinois researchers, opens the door to software that can guess where a person is headed—reaching for a gun, steering a car into armored gate—milliseconds before the act plays out.
- Drones can learn to sense-and-avoid.
One, Bio Inspired Technologies of Boise, Idaho, is tackling the problem with a hard-wired neural network, a type of device that is good at learning things. This can, the firm’s engineers believe, be trained to recognise and avoid aerial obstacles. Alternatively, a conventional, if high-end, computer can be programmed with algorithms predesigned to recognise and evade threats, by understanding how objects visible to a drone’s camera are moving.
- The variety of uses for drones is big and ever-expanding.
These involved areas as diverse as agriculture (farmers use drones to monitor crop growth, insect infestations and areas in need of watering at a fraction of the cost of manned aerial surveys); land-surveying; film-making (some of the spectacular footage in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was shot from a drone, which could fly lower and thus collect more dramatic pictures than a helicopter); security; and delivering things…Because drones are cheap, geographers who could never afford conventional aerial surveys are able to use them to track erosion, follow changes in rivers’ sources and inspect glaciers. Archaeologists and historians are taking advantage of software that permits drones fitted with ordinary digital cameras to produce accurate 3D models of landscapes or buildings. This lets them map ancient ruins and earthworks. Drones can also go where manned aircraft cannot, including the craters of active volcanoes and the interiors of caves. A drone operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, has even snatched breath samples from spouting whales for DNA analysis. And drones are, as might be expected, particularly useful for studying birds.
- Drones are surveillant. As such they are ideal for all sorts of new mappings. This raises privacy concerns.
We need to impose rules, limits and regulations on UAVs as well in order to preserve the privacy Americans have always expected and enjoyed.
What we should realize if that if it can be done it will be done, as long as it is legal (and often that is very much an unknown or grey area).