Why the US Government Is Terrified of Hobbyist Drones
If you want to understand why the government freaked out when a $400 remote-controlled quadcopter landed on the White House grounds last week, you need to look four miles away, to a small briefing room in Arlington, Virginia. There, just 10 days earlier, officials from the US military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FAA gathered for a DHS “summit” on a danger that had been consuming them privately for years: the potential use of hobbyist drones as weapons of terror or assassination.
The conference was open to civilians, but explicitly closed to the press. One attendee described it as an eye-opener. The officials played videos of low-cost drones firing semi-automatic weapons, revealed that Syrian rebels are importing consumer-grade drones to launch attacks, and flashed photos from an exercise that pitted $5,000 worth of drones against a convoy of armored vehicles. (The drones won.) But the most striking visual aid was on an exhibit table outside the auditorium, where a buffet of low-cost drones had been converted into simulated flying bombs. One quadcopter, strapped to 3 pounds of inert explosive, was a DJI Phantom 2, a newer version of the very drone that would land at the White House the next week.
JOHN: I saw a video of a swarm of mini-drones coordinated to fly in an organized but random pattern very much like a flock of birds or school of fish.
ANSEL: The mosquito drone can't be far from possible, if indeed it isn't already made. Nano-tech and drones are a natural mix for surveillance. Already, we're hearing reports of "dragonflies" above protest gatherings, so I'm comfortable with believing this is a done deal.
BRAD: It may be the smaller the worser.
ANSEL: Smaller is definitely worser, except when talking about explosives payloads.
BRAD: How about a virus?
JOHN: When I went to Best Buy yesterday I noticed a display of "toy" drones -- between the vacuum cleaners and the fancy new electric razors. All were very affordable -- way less than a hundred dollars.
Imagine what a suicide drone might do!
Suicide drone with a little vial of toxins...
ANSEL: Perfect for biological warfare.
Nanobots small enough to enter the bloodstream would be formidable.
JOHN: That's a really scary idea.
Ya'll say Hello, btw, to the NSA monitor now keeping track of our comments...
HI, BOSS! YA'LL DOING OKAY?
WE'RE JUST SHOOTING SOME SHIT...