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Drones: Should we be concerned?

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    This discussion is only for a discussion of Drones. We have a discussion on John Brennan's CIA chief nomination that has now been sidetracked into drones. So rather than continuing that discussion there, I thought I would start a new thread. I'll repeat some of the links from that discussion, but for those not familiar with drones, a quick read of Wikipedia will fill you in.

    Wikipedia: Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or Drone

    Drones are primarily used by the military and come in various sizes from very small hand held to super sonic, high altitude drones. The technology is continually evolving and commercially available drones are being used domestically by both governments and private organizations. I won't get into all that here except to say that drones are here to stay, and we can expect them to play an increasingly part of our lives in this century but not without criticism.

    In fact, drones have become so controversial that a website, Drones Watch, has been set up specifically to "monitor and regulate drone use." It is run by Code Pink Women for Peace.

    It includes news articles of interest and links including the recent article by retired General Stanley McChrystal, Retired General Cautions Against Overuse of “Hated” Drones in which McChrystal states: “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

    Jeff Dyer, Financial Times, October 21, 2012: Drones: Undeclared and undiscussed

    Jeff Dyer of the Financial Times discussed the "Obama doctrine" of going after terrorists with drones rather than ground troops. Dyer notes that legal critics have become increasingly "uncomfortable with the way the “war on terror” can be used to blur the terms of where and when the US is at war. As Georgetown University legal scholar Rosa Brooks put it recently: “That amounts, in practice, to a claim that the executive branch has the unreviewable power to kill anyone, anywhere, at any time, based on secret criteria and secret information discussed in a secret process by largely anonymous individuals.”"

    With regard to domestic use the ACLU has also chimed in: Domestic Drones

    "U.S. law enforcement is greatly expanding its use of domestic drones for surveillance. Routine aerial surveillance would profoundly change the character of public life in America. Rules must be put in place to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of this new technology without bringing us closer to a “surveillance society” in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the government."
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    Likewise, Naomi Wolf in her article, The Coming Drone Attack on America, states:

    "In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs."

    Okay, that quote from Wolf is a repeat from my other post, but I put it here to stimulate thought and discussion. Jared, Dutch, James and I have shared our views on drones in the John Brennan thread, but the topic is too important to just keep it under the John Brennan umbrella. I have provided links for people to increase their knowledge of drones and contribute to the discussion.

    Comments invited.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "schmidt" hey, I already gave you my comments; I still think this is a very dangerous trend; I saw that they are going to put this up for discussion in the United Nations. The thing as I told you what disturbes me the most is the "non-disclosure" on who and what they kill or blow up. Right now there is barely a disclosure. Always a good excuse; "we killed some terrorists" (who confirms that indeed they were terrorists?) No I do not trust what they say!!
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    I fear this is just going to grow and continue. Anytime you can do your business without taking responsibility and save money at the same time. It's sure to remain popular. Once other countries build up their drone programs, you can bet the US will bitch about it. Exception being Israel. They're doing just fine.
    I don't like the US domestic usage at all. I don't trust the agenda of those deploying these devices. I do think that it's good usage on the southern boarders with drugs and illegal immigration.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Yes, thanks Dutch...you have expanded the thinking beyond just the ease of drone warfare, but also the implications of the secret nature of the program. On that note, and getting back to the subject of the domestic use of drones, I haven't seen much in the media. Are we as an American society getting used to and accepting being watched? Big cities like New York and London already have surveillance cameras saturating key parts of the city...for security purposes, and now they are adding drones to the mix. And smaller cities and rural communities too are thinking of getting in the act.

    Add to that the enormous "spy center" that the NSA is building in Utah that also has gotten attention in the blogosphere but hardly at all in the mainstream media:

    James Bamford, Wired, March 15, 2012: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)

    "Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”"

    Okay I want to keep this discussion on drones and not on the spy center, but it is all part of the same mix. So from surveillance cameras in cities and roadways to satellite photos to wire tapping to data mining of all electronic communications...and now drones, the American public is increasingly being "spied upon," all in the name of national security. Much of this is a result of fear mongering post-9/11 and no president wants to be overseeing the next 9/11. So I expect that our Congress, president and courts will increasingly be okay with the increased level of surveillance including drones. Billions and billions spent with very few questioning the cost/benefits, all in the name of "keeping America safe."

    Drones are another big money maker for the military equipment manufacturers, and as wars die down in Afghanistan, they'll need new places to sell their wares...and why not America?
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Dutch you may think this is a dangerous trend but Mcclellan is right this is going to grow and continue. Drones are a growth industry. What other part of the US military has grown more over the past decade? Probably none. They are here to stay and we're only going to have more of them in the future in military AND civilian use. Just about anything that a manned aircraft can do, the drones can do cheaper and more efficiently.

    Lots of money is being made by the makers of the drones and once money gets into the equation, money usually wins.
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    'Tis only a matter of time before someone creates a drone killing drone. Maybe that is what brought down the US drone in Iran. Spy vs. Spy, it ain't just a comic strip.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    What struck me about the military drones is that each unit of the military was its own custom made drones for each tier or type of engagement with very little sharing or commonality between the military branches. You can browse the list below. I didn't take the time to find out which companies build those drones, but it sure appears like a lucrative business for the military drone makers. And now those drone makers are lobbying Congress for expansion of their drone program domestically. As the Huffington Post wrote last year:

    Drone Lobbying Ramps Up Among Industry Manufacturers, Developers

    "This is one of the few areas where the government is still spending money and investing," said Alex Bronstein-Moffly, an analyst at First Street Research, which collects lobbying data. Lobbyists are pushing on legislation, regulations and appropriations, Bronstein-Moffly said. "This is the trifecta of lobbying."

    The Association For Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), an industry trade group, has said once drones are allowed to fly in U.S. airspace, "the civil market has the potential to eclipse the defense market."


    A recent study by the Teal Group, an aviation and defense consulting firm, estimated that global spending on unmanned aircraft will almost double over the next decade, from $5.9 billion annually to $11.3 billion. Most of that growth will be in the U.S.

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    Wow...the civil market for drones is expected to exceed the military market. And when I look at the list of military drones below, that is one huge military expenditure.

    So yes, I agree with James and McClellan...drones are a growth industry. However, it won't be sold as a drone program...it'll be sold as a job creation program.


    Here are the Military Drone tiers I mentioned above from Wikipedia:

    US Air Force tiers:

    Tier N/A: Small/Micro UAV. BATMAV (Wasp Block III).
    Tier I: Low altitude, long endurance. Gnat 750.
    Tier II: Medium altitude, long endurance (MALE). MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.
    Tier II+: High altitude, long endurance conventional UAV (or HALE UAV). Altitude: 60,000 to 65,000 feet (19,800 m), less than 300 knots (560 km/h) airspeed, 3,000-nautical-mile (6,000 km) radius, 24 hour time-on-station capability. Complementary to the Tier III- aircraft. RQ-4 Global Hawk.
    Tier III-: High altitude, long endurance low-observable UAV. Same parameters as, and complementary to, the Tier II+ aircraft. The RQ-3 DarkStar was originally intended to fulfill this role before it was "terminated." Role now filled by RQ-170 Sentinel.

    US Marines Tiers

    Tier N/A: Micro UAV. Wasp III fills this role, driven largely by the desire for commonality with the USAF BATMAV.[25]
    Tier I: Role currently filled by the Dragon Eye but all ongoing and future procurement for the Dragon Eye program is going now to the RQ-11B Raven B.
    Tier II: Role currently filled by the ScanEagle.
    Tier III: For two decades, the role of medium range tactical UAV was filled by the Pioneer UAV. In July 2007, the Marine Corps announced its intention to retire the aging Pioneer fleet and transition to the RQ-7 Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System by AAI Corporation. The first Marine Shadow systems have already been delivered, and training for their respective Marine Corps units is underway.

    US Army tiers

    Tier I: Small UAV. Role filled by the RQ-11B Raven.
    Tier II: Short Range Tactical UAV. Role filled by the RQ-7B Shadow 200.
    Tier III: Medium Range Tactical UAV. Role currently filled by the MQ-5A/B Hunter and IGNAT/IGNAT-ER, but transitioning to the Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ERMP) MQ-1C Gray Eagle
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "schmidt" I 'm extreemly sorry to have opened this can of worms!!! Yes everyone on this site is getting "awake" and getting the "picture" including you who is a research specialist. Yes we have a company here in FL who sells these, I'm not aware of export restrictions; but I guess they will run into perhaps licensing issues /lawsuits. I'm fully aware this technology will rapidly expand and for sure will get the attention once there is a real conflict created by it. But knowing the CIA since "wikileaks" no longer operates, we will be kept in the dark what these things really do. I hope that sufficient expertise is available at the UN to research this develpment/issue from all sides. I wonder if you read my story about the helicopters which screen DC for "dirty" bombs with specialized equipment; actually also an infringement of privacy. They also could use drones to do that but the "payload" is still too much for the drones at present. This activety will continue for sure. Guess who pays the bill ?
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Woven would you be surprised if there is not already a drone which can hunt and kill an "enemy" drone? There may be, and if there's not one currently I would expect there will be some day. Our robots vs their robots...Spy vs Spy indeed.

    Good info from Schmidt about this subject and all the services having their own specific drones is not surprising, it reminds me of the rivalry and fighting between the CIA and FBI which was exposed after 9-11. I would agree that eventually drones will be more in civilian service than military service, and they are definitely here to stay in both applications.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    Dutch Wrote: "schmidt" I 'm extreemly sorry to have opened this can of worms!!! Yes everyone on this site is getting "awake" and getting the "picture" including you who is a research specialist. Yes we have a company here in FL who sells these, I'm not aware of export restrictions; but I guess they will run into perhaps licensing issues /lawsuits. I'm fully aware this technology will rapidly expand and for sure will get the attention once there is a real conflict created by it. But knowing the CIA since "wikileaks" no longer operates, we will be kept in the dark what these things really do. I hope that sufficient expertise is available at the UN to research this develpment/issue from all sides. I wonder if you read my story about the helicopters which screen DC for "dirty" bombs with specialized equipment; actually also an infringement of privacy. They also could use drones to do that but the "payload" is still too much for the drones at present. This activety will continue for sure. Guess who pays the bill ?
    I spent 30 years in the export business. You can be quite sure that an export license (probably a state department license) would be required if export of such technology is even permitted. It would be based on the recipient and the destination country.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    I just read in the Dutch news that they are testing the biggest drone yet in Germany (Manching) it is an EADS development together with Lockheed; it weighs 15 tons. I can imagine what the payload will be!! I saw a video of its take off; it can fly half way around the world without refueling. So in other words you do not need terrorist anymore for a 9/11 happening only one of these!!!
  • Democrat
    Meridian, MS
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    Hey Dutch, I thought the purpose of drones was two-fold: stealth and saving human life. How "stealthy" can a 15-ton apparatus be? Maybe people couldn't defend themselves from it, but it sure seems like it would be easy to spot.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    "michaels" too bad I can not show the clip; but the profile of the thing is the same as the "drones" used in Pakistan (same company Lockheed), so the radar image is simular like that; they of course tested that, on a certain height. It was kind of noisy on take-of though, because of the jet engine.(in flight a lot quieter)
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Stealth is less about how big and much it weighs, it's all about stealth technology built into the aircraft. It's not about eyeballs seeing them, it's about radar systems which can't.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Whichever way you may look at it; it is still stealth, because of its technology and shape; they are not nuts over there; EADS knows what they are doing they are ahead of the US in a lot of things. The B2 has also stealth in it and weighs a lot more. But of course I have no idea what the intention is of having this large a drone, looking at its military or civilian role. I'm not part of the inner circle for sure!!