365 / 43: Watch That Bird!

In a lot of science fiction novels, they say that the future will be rosy as we will develop nanotechnology and miniaturised devices that will cure diseases and repair damaged lands. But do we first have to live through this technology being used to create weapons of war?

There is a lot of evidence that the next war will be fought with technology as small as moths. In the United States of America, specifically the Wright-Patterson air force base in Ohio, military researchers are currently working on shrinking missiles to the size of birds and insects.

Designers are trying to replicate the flight mechanics of hawks, moths and other insects in an attempt to create devices that can carry out espionage of even kill. The main purpose of this is so these mechanical animals can hide in plain sight. So, if the enemy see a bird up in a tree they think it’s just a bird. In actual fact, it will probably be broadcasting live video movements back at a home base – as far away as 20 miles (32 kilometres) away.

The computer programming to have helicopters of all sizes fly by themselves is nothing new, but now they are looking at integrating this with “flapping wing” technology. This is attempting to recreate the physics of flight with the focus being on bugs rather than birds.

Imagine – a mosquito flies up to you whilst you are waiting for your next order to attack. It stings you, and you slap it away. Within ten minutes you are dead as the mosquito drone has injected you with a neurotoxin.

There are already examples of drone technology, disguised as birds, being used in Afghanistan. The Raven is a three foot long drone, one of the smallest used in battles. It is tossed into the air like a model plane to peer over the next hill – to see where the enemy is. The US Army has some 4,800 of them in operation already.

There are mid-size drones – the Predator, the larger Reaper and the smaller Shadow. These are flown using remote controls, such as joysticks, to view their data on computer screens. A prototype drone can take off and land on aircraft carriers automatically and, on command, drop bombs.

There has been a massive increase in the number of hours that the Air Force dedicate to drone flying missions for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The Air Force already analyses almost 1,500 hours of full-motion video every day.

Is this really the way we want new technology? Does anybody remember Robert Oppenheimer, as Director of Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico, wishing that he had never been part of the team that discovered nuclear energy as built the first atomic bomb? This was an invention that was meant to reduce the planet’s need for fossil fuel, but some clever person decided they could use it better to blow up a place.

Let us hope that there are people out there that can find a way to use this technology in a way that will be beneficial for mankind, instead of just another device to kill ‘the enemy’. Why does everything need to be used for a military purpose before the real good of a new discovery can be utilised?

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