NOTE: MY COMMENTARY is purely meant to reflect my views on these matters. I have striven to be factually accurate; if I have misrepresented any facts or issues, please understand that any such misrepresentation was not intentional.

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AND NOW, MY COMMENTARY (Copyright Protonius.Wordpress.Net 2012 and 2013):


One Drone-design among many — and who’s to say what designs the future may bring? In any event, this Navy image is of a Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) X-45C on display at a 2005 Naval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Air Demo at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland. Operational missions listed for the X-45C “may include suppression of enemy air defenses; strike; electronic attack; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance”.

(PROTONIUS, 19 May, 2012, with updates as of 17 August 2012 and October 6, 2013) – “30,000 surveillance-drones, under the control of the U.S. Military and various law enforcement agencies, to potentially soon be flying in America’s skies”. 

All too true, thanks to a Congressional bill signed into law on February 14 of this year by Obama: the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (H.R. 658).

But that’s not all! Now, this update:

“ROBOCOP” (character based on the “Robocop” films). What would a real “humanoid policing-robot” — or “pursuit-oriented robot” — look like, and what would it actually be equipped to do — and be capable of doing?
(Image source: “DMY/Sandbox, at Wikimedia Commons).

According to a 16 August 2012 report by Infowars.Com, “The Department of Defense has awarded a lucrative contract to an engineering and robotics design company {Boston Dymanics – ed.} to develop and build humanoid robots that can act intelligently without supervision. … While the Pentagon says the robots are for “humanitarian” missions, one cannot avoid thinking of the propensity to adapt this kind of military style technology for other more aggressive purposes. Indeed, the Pentagon has, in the past, issued a request to contractors to develop teams of robots that can search for, detect and track ‘non-cooperative’ humans in ‘pursuit/evacuation scenarios’ “. (Source: http://www.infowars.com/pentagon-developing-autonomous-humanoid-robots-to-perform-evacuation-operations/)

(10/06/2013 Update:) Still skeptical? Still thinking that the idea of developing a real-world “Robocop” is pure fiction? Then perhaps you might want to consider this 2013 Boston Dynamics project (affiliated with DARPA, the U.S. Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency), to develop “Atlas – The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot”. Here’s a photo:

"Atlas - The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot" (Boston Dynanics).

“Atlas – The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot” (Photo, courtesy of Boston Dynamics & DARPA).

According to Boston Dynamics ‘ website (http://www.bostondynamics.com/robot_Atlas.html), ATLAS is “a high mobility, humanoid robot designed to negotiate outdoor, rough terrain. Atlas can walk bipedally leaving the upper limbs free to lift, carry, and manipulate the environment. In extremely challenging terrain, Atlas is strong and coordinated enough to climb using hands and feet, to pick its way through congested spaces.” Further, says the website, “Articulated, sensate hands will enable Atlas to use tools designed for human use”.

And that’s just for starters.

How would you like a future version of ATLAS coming after you? To, perhaps, rescue you from harm — or to apprehend you for a perceived crime — or to hunt you down “with extreme prejudice”?

So it would seem that my speculations,  which are detailed in my original 2012 commentary below, as to the potentials that are now being pursued to develop and assign missions for increasingly sophisticated robotic technologies, have been right-on-target — and that it may indeed be fully rational to wonder how long it may be before We, the People, become — quite frighteningly — their chosen target.

Humanoid robotics — especially if weaponized — to do a controlling-agency’s bidding, especially if that agency does not quite have our “best interests” at heart? Non-humanoid, bizarre-looking, robotic devices, rumbling down our streets, scrabbling up our walls, clambering through our windows, slithering under our doorways — or even, on a “nanotechnology-scale“, being imprinted into our clothing, or infused into vaccines or into our food-and-water supplies, and becoming a more-or-less permanent component of our biological selves, so as to “tag” us, “track” us, “control” us, perhaps even to influence not only our physical, emotional, and mental states, but also to generate — upon command —  a particularly permanent result?

Is this the kind of future whose birth-stages we are now witnessing? Is this the kind of future that is now starting to first tentatively creep, then unsteadily saunter, and then aggressively gallop and swoop, into our lives?

These technologies, reportedly, are all on-track; perhaps the key question we are facing is: how will these technologies be used — and who will be the ones doing the using — and how do we fit into that picture?

Who of “we” will be in charge of these creations? Who will determine what these things may or may not do? What absolutely unbreakable “guarantees” will there be that these creations will be used only for “good” (and “good” by whose definition?)? Or, for any of these devices and technologies that are specifically designed to inflict “harm” to an “enemy” (but “enemy” by whose definition?), what are the absolutely unbreakable “guarantees” that “innocent” people will not, as a result, become the chosen targets or even become “collateral damage”?

Perhaps some answers to these questions are in my analysis below, in which I’ve tried to cover many of the key areas of what once may have been referred to as “things to come” but which, now, are apparently “just around the corner” — or are “already here”. (Note: Details on the topic of “nanotechnology” will have to wait for a future analysis.)

Let’s start with the issue of “the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012and the Drones:

Drones, now set to be launched into American skies by the thousands, and all to allegedly be utilized in a (perhaps endless?) “war” on “crime” and “terrorism” — a war in which, its proponents argue, these drones will make you more “safe” — but also a war in which, quite possibly, you yourself, and everyone else whom you know, even if you believe that you are completely innocent of any “wrongdoing”, might all too easily become targeted as “a person of interest”.

And what might be the consequences of that determination?

Is this the beginning of a no-longer completely fictional “SkyNet“?

“SkyNet” – Not just for “The Terminator” films anymore?

And so a whole host of critically important questions now arise:

Why was this bill, with its drones-aspect, and with so little Congressional (and arguably no public) debate, rushed into law?

With this bill’s passage into law, what has effectively happened to your Constitutional rights?

Why this giant “next-generation leap” to transform our nation into a “surveillance society”?

Why is this happening now? Why is it happening at all? Is it only to, allegedly, protect us, and the nation, from suffering at the hands of “the bad guys”? Or might there be other, less obvious, goals in mind?

And what may the future hold as these drones’ capabilitiesand the missions to which they will be put — morph toward goals that the American public may yet find unpleasant to envision, even now as drones by the thousands — unless something changes — will soon become ubiquitous in America’s skies?

Still skeptical that this will happen?

According to a 24 April 2012 report by the UK’s online Daily Mail (MailOnline), titled “Is there a drone in your neighbourhood? Rise of spy planes exposed after FAA is forced to reveal 63 launch sites across U.S .”, it would appear that the operation of  unrevealed numbers of drones — military, governmental, corporate, civilian — in America’s skies is already significantly underway — and that at least some of these drones “may have been designed to kill terror suspects”. (Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134376/Is-drone-neighbourhood-Rise-killer-spy-planes-exposed-FAA-forced-reveal-63-launch-sites-U-S.html).

The U.S. military-operated drone known as “Predator“.
How soon might this type of drone — or others possessing even greater capabilities and technological prowess — be flying over your house?
Note: A key component of the U.S. military arsenal in the fight against “terrorism”, Predator drones reportedly are also used, at least in various of the “war zones” that are so often in the news these days, not only as observational craft but also in terms of another of their functions: to kill.

Military and law-enforcement (and corporate) controlled surveillance-drones flying over your head. Over your town. Over your property. Over your family members. Maybe even over you as you drive your car, go shopping, go to work, visit a friend, chat with neighbors, walk down the street, relax in your backyard – and who-knows what-else.

Surveillance-drones — with their autonomous mission-commanding non-human controls, or their software-determined targeting and responses, or their clandestine human masters at distant controls — seeking, viewing, analyzing, categorizing, and acting upon, anything and everything that they can determine about us as we, like ants on an anthill, scrabble about our daily lives while potentially benevolent — or malevolent , depending upon one’s point of view — eyes peer down at us from above.

The famous red eye of HAL 9000, from the motion picture “2001: A Space Odyessey”. (Image by Cryteria).

“Surveillance-eyes” by the thousands! 

Is this to protect us all from what We, the People, define as “crime” and “terrorism” – or might these drones, as part of this rapidly accelerating push toward surveilling us, instead become a tool — a weapon — that can be used against us, as those who are positions of governmental authority choose to apply their own definitions as to what, at any given moment, constitutes “crime” and “terrorism”?

Or, as some critics are also charging, is it even more than that? I.e., some critics ask, might these drones — especially in coordination with all of the other ways that various  Governmental authorities are increasingly devising to track and control our every move — become yet another component in a panoply of powerful tools intended to subjugate “We, the People” to the rule of a totalitarian state?

Law enforcement, as a category, generally asserts that these drones can be critically important, and valuable, to tracking-down criminals, locating and rescuing crime-victims, and even locating and rescuing lost Alzheimer’s patients and the like. If so, it would certainly seem that there is a positive side to launching — within tightly selected operational parameters — some of these drones into American airspace.

Who of us, for example, if we were the victim of a kidnapping, or were interminably lost in a hostile remote environment, or were cornered in a dark alley with someone holding a gun to our head, would not want a law-enforcement or other relevant agency to use all tools possible to find and rescue us from such a potentially injurious or deadly fate?

And who of us, for example, would not want a law-enforcement agency to be able to use all tools possible to locate and stop a “terrorist” from setting-off a bomb in a crowded street or shopping-center?

Utilizing the best that technology has to offer, to neutralize such dangerous situations and to save innocent people from such terrible fates, would seem to be an admirable – and worthwhile – goal, especially in this age of concern about “terrorism” and, against the backdrop of a severely strained global economy, about the possibility of a rising and broadening spike of domestic crime.

But what if  the definitions that a governmental or law enforcement agency applies to “crime” and “terrorism” substantially differ from our view of those terms? What if those authorities’ methods of using these particular high-tech tools to root-out and fight “terrorism” and “crime”, also happen, incidentally, to have the effect of destroying our freedoms, and putting us into the cross-hairs, and throwing us into the arms of a burgeoning, surveillance-oriented, increasingly dictatorial, form of government — what some believe is increasingly trending toward becoming a “police-state“?

Is that what we want? Is that to be our future, here in what used to be known as “the Land of the Free”?

OVERRIDING QUESTION: What is to prevent any of these drones, or similar technologies such as those outlined below, from being used in a way that abuses our Constitutional rights, or from being manipulated in such a way as to accidentally — or intentionally — cause damage to our life, limb, property?

There may, in some instances, be a positive side to the use of drones in U.S. airspace. But, from the standpoint of how the use of drones in American airspace might impact on freedom, it would seem that there is a negative side too — and it is huge.

FOX NEWS commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano (see http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31353.htm and http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/17/is-there-a-drone-in-your-backyard/print/), and other critics, reportedly see this pro-drone trend as constituting a dangerous, and completely unConstitutional – and therefore, in their view, illegal – development that potentially can be utilized as, and in the view of some observers may well be, a tool to advance the development of a “police state” — a “Big Brother” type of dictatorship, right here at home.

In their view, the deployment, at least as currently envisioned, of these drones into U.S. airspace, represents a huge danger to our freedoms – a danger that must, they say, be stopped at once, if our freedoms – such as they are – are to be preserved.

To which I add the following thoughts:


This image reflects the comparitive orbits of the network of GPS (Global Positioning System) satellites circling the Earth. How comprehensive might a similar network — or multiple networks — of “spy satellites” perhaps look?

1. Hi-resolution military & related observational satellites — American and otherwise — hundreds to thousands of miles above Earth’s surface: To what extent may any of these have been — or perhaps still be — tasked with observing us and various of our activities? Perhaps it’s just a matter of how comprehensive and detailed the form of data-collection may be, what those who are operating these satellites determine to be the focus of their interest, the parameters within which these systems are permitted to function, and the limits of the satellites’ operational capabilities.

So, a question: How many of these satellites have been, or are, or may soon be, observing us, and in what degree of comprehensiveness and detail might they be doing that, and by whose (or which agency’s) command might they be doing it, and for what purpose? And to what use is that gathered-data — if indeed it is of our observed activities — being put?

2. But 30,000 airborne-over-the-U.S. spy-drones over a 10-year period? Who sets that time-frame, and who is to say that the deployment will actually be limited to just 30,000? And who, too, will be empowered to collect, store, distribute, and otherwise utilize, those crafts’ collected data?

According to a 02/08/2012 report by The Business Insider (at URLhttp://www.businessinsider.com/robert-johnson-bi-30000-drones-by-2020-2012-2#comments):

“Congress passed a bill this week paving the way for unmanned drones to ply American skies. The bill requires the FAA to rush a plan to get as many drones in the air as possible within nine months. How many drones are we talking? Shaun Waterman at The Washington Times reports the agency predicts that 30,000 drones could fill U.S. skies by the end of the decade. Naturally, many are concerned that surveillance by police and federal government agencies will skyrocket in response.”

The Pentagon - HQ for the U.S. DoD

The Pentagon – HQ for the U.S. DoD

Not only that, but reports have also come out that state that the U.S. Military has been accorded, or has given itself, the authority — which critics say is in violation of Constitutional law — to store and distribute any data that those craft collect incidentally, such as “accidental” imagery of a citizen’s private property, for a period of up to 90 days.

This powerful (in my view) video-clip of a May 14, 2012 FOX NEWS report of the situation goes right to the heart of this issue and is well worth a view. The URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg1TAAqrqMo .

As to the projected “30,000” over a 10-year period:

Why take all that time, and why stop at 30,000? And even if there are such projected limitations at present, who is to say that those limitations won’t soon be revised into obsolescence, as those limits are removed and the drone-related floodgates are flung more widely open?

The answer to those questions, in my view, is not quite “freedom-friendly”; instead – unless competent attention is now focused on safeguarding our freedom (and our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights) from these dangers – the trend, as I see it, is more likely to be as follows:

IMO, ultimately there may well be no realistic limit — other than one designed to “open the floodgates” — to the speed of deployment or to the number or range of designs of drones that may be deployed. In fact, as I see it, the design, manufacture, marketing, deployment, operation, of drones may well become the next “go-to” industry, with potentially immense profits that are just begging to be harvested, such that the drone (and related robotics) industry – and buyers – will soon be racing to make that figure of 30,000 “just a drop in the bucket” of what this industry – in tandem with a trend toward a advancing the interests of a police-oriented state – will really be attracted to generate.

For that matter, “The Business Insider”, in the same 02/08/2012 article that I mentioned above, also states that “The commercial drone market would be worth hundreds of millions more if the bill passes”. That reference was to the bill that, less than a week later, became FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2012; it was signed into law by Obama on 02/14/2012.

So, among the potential attractions — depending on motives of those who are involved in this scenario — of building, deploying, and operating these surveillance-drones, may well be the following:

— Gain of financial profit;

— Gain of increased political, business, or military influence;

— A big step forward in the tracking of, and coming down hard on, “crime” and “terrorism”;

— Increased accretion of and centralization of power;

— Diminution of the influence of, and diminution of the Constitutional rights and freedoms of, and — if these drones become weaponized and capable of launching an attack — possibly even the case-by-case survival of, the individual American citizen.

Welcome to what may well become America’s future.

3. Drone-design:

Are we talking low-flying Predators or Predator-cousins? Larger craft? Smaller ones, like model airplanes ? But who’s to say that these upcoming drones need resemble common man-made aircraft? Or even, if their purpose is to spy, that they need be of the “flying” variety at all?

The “Nano Hummingbird” surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft developed by AeroVironment, Inc. under contract to the U.S. Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Perhaps it’s not yet equipped for high-altitude flights or missions lasting more than several minutes — but it does have its uses. And, what capabilities might future progress in its development bring?

For example, just scan the various news-reports, or videos on sites such as Youtube, for “drones” (and similar terminologies), and you will find that designers — often major industrial companies, some with military or law-enforcement ties — have already designed and been putting into operation drones of many different sizes, appearances, and capabilities — some of these creations even being as small as, and resembling,  side-scrabbling crabs, armadillo-like rolling balls, wall-climbing match-boxes, hummingbirds, or even flying insects.

Or even bizarre-looking, high speed, incredibly maneuverable, flying devices, some of which look  as though they might have been designed by “Alien” and “Prometheus” director Ridley Scott.

Want to see a version of the “Hummingbird” drone in flight? See the videoclip at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96WePgcg37I .

Or here’s a link to a Youtube clip of a homemade “Quadricopter” in actual flight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTWmOHedrXw&feature=related

Now imagine (or do an internet-search on) the more highly sophisticated designs of these things that are being constructed for — and to some degree are already in operational use for — the military and for agencies tasked with “law enforcement“, not to mention for other entities who wish to utilize such craft in the exercise of their own “special interests”.

Here’s a screenshot from the above-mentioned “homemade Quadricopter” clip:

               And you thought that “UFOs” were spooky?                         Screenshot of a “Quadricopter“, also known as a “Quadcopter” or “Multicopter“, in a demonstration-flight. This screenshot is from the full videoclip titled “best toy ever (multicopter)“, at URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTWmOHedrXw&feature=related .

View the videoclip; watch that device buzz and zoom through its unbelievably swift tumbles, twists, and turns. Then imagine how you might feel if such a device — a device under the control of some faceless, hidden, source, at whose intentions you could only guess — were racing above, or buzzing around, your head.

Not enough to catch your attention or, perhaps, to give you a sense of personal concern? Then take a look at this following videoclip, in which you’ll see a demonstration of swarms of quadricopters being flown in a variety of amazing, complex, coordinated, formations – and then imagine that such craft, at the behest of some clandestine entity in what may soon become our future, are directed to swarm around you:


Now take that all a big step further ahead, and imagine (or do an internet-search on) the panoply of the more-highly-sophisticated drone-designs that are in the works, and the missions for which they are being constructed – especially as relates to the goals of the military, of agencies in “law enforcement”, of universities and laboratories of various kinds, and even of the entertainment-industry  — use your imagination — or, perhaps, of other entities who wish to utilize such cybercraft in the exercise of their own “special interests“.

So what are we really letting ourselves in for, as these “30,000” — a number that I suspect may eventually be far exceeded — start flying, buzzing, racing, circling, overhead and perhaps even “accidentally” coming much closer than that?

And might that projected “30,000” be limited to drones that only fly and which, by regulation — but remember: regulations can change — and regulations, sometimes all too easily, can also be circumvented! So, must these drones, of whatever design, fly only above a given altitude? Or might more (and more frightening) drone-capabilities, including other kinds of drones, operating under less stringent (or circumvented) regulations, also at some point be permitted to come into play — and into our lives?

Ah, but wait a moment! “Insect-Drones” also limited to flying only above a given altitude — how practical might that restriction be — especially if such a drone might be designed to unobtrusively scoot into our homes or to quietly alight onto a nearby wall, desk, countertop, bric-a-brac, or even on our shoulder, to secretly spy on us — or to even do worse than that?

Ever been stung by a bee?

And what about “climbers”, “crawlers”, shape-shifting “slitherers” and “morphers”, and more such seemingly bizarre cybernetic creatures that also are now being developed for “surveillance” — and potentially for other less savory — purposes? Does a supposed “altitude-restriction” have any practical relevance to their possible use, as the cybernetic net around our society — and around our freedoms — tightens?

Even so: remember, we’re only looking at projections based on what is publicly known as to current technologies; who can say what technological breakthroughs will emerge and be applied, toward watching and responding to our every move, as we inexorably move headlong into our future?

4. A closer look: is “SURVEILLANCE” all?

Here’s looking at YOU, Kid!
(Image: courtesy of Thomas Tolkien)

As I suggested above: would these drones, whether of the “flying” or of the “rolling” or “crawling” or “climbing” or “running” (etcetera) variety, be limited – by structural design as well as by law – to having only observational capabilities?

For example, even if they were limited to “observing” — a limitation whose applicability seems to open to serious question — what “observational technologies” would they be limited to employing?

Common civilian-camera low-megapixel “daylight-imaging” technology only? Not likely.

It would seem that various drones, if purely observation-designed, would also likely be equipped with, and empowered to utilize, whatever other forms of intrusive “observational, mission-specific” capabilities that state-of-the-art technologies can offer, such as, for example, high-power optical and digital zoom and magnification capabilities, face-detection/recognition, gait-detection/recognition, light-amplification, infrared thermal and night-vision technologies, and any number of other advanced forms of multispectral/object-recognition and scanning technologies “that can get the job done”.

And that’s just for starters.

How about also, I wonder, additionally utilizing the various other kinds of advanced technologies that NASA, for example, uses in its Lunar and interplanetary missions — technologies that go well-beyond the above-mentioned observational capabilities? Or how about other surveillance (and attack-related?) technologies, whatever they may be, that perhaps have been developed for and successfully utilized in this nation’s various military operations, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan?

But, as to just the possible visual-observational capabilities alone, take a look at the 12/29/2011 BBC News item at URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16358851 . It’s headlined “US Army unveils 1.8 gigapixel camera helicopter drone” — and it is an eye-opener!

Headlined “US Army unveils 1.8 gigapixel camera helicopter drone”, the article states that the Army says that this new technology promises “an unprecedented capability to track and monitor activity on the ground”, and, in part, adds the following information:

The drone’s specially-equipped 1.8 gigapixel camera “offers 900 times the number of pixels of a 2 megapixel camera found in some mobile phones. The system can provide real-time video streams at the rate of 10 frames a second”, can “track people and vehicles from altitudes above 20,000 feet (6.1km) across almost 65 square miles (168 sq km)”, and “operators on the ground can select up to 65 steerable ‘windows’ following separate targets to be ‘stared at’. Vehicles, people and other objects can be tracked even if they move in different directions.”

How would you like something like that to be flying overhead and peering down at you from above?

But is “visual observation and tracking” to be the limit of what any of these projected drones will be designed — or commissioned — to do? Might other “surveillance” technologies — and applications of those other technologies — also come into play?

How about “air-sniffing” or chemical-detection or other technologies to remotely detect not only potential “terrorist materials” but also to detect — as was demonstrated in the Vietnam War, for example — hints of human biological activity, for tracking (and targeting) of selected population-groups or individuals?

Or what of technologies that would allow for the remote detection and analysis of such  things as “interesting” patterns of electricity-usage or of analog or digital signal sources and transmissions, or even of tapping into — and jamming, altering, or otherwise affecting — digital communications (perhaps as an adjunct to how extensively our nation’s digital communications are, in many cases, reportedly already being surveilled)?

More to the point: in the hunt for “terrorists” and “crime cells”, for instance — and if the reportedly widespread and “legalized” Governmental ability to hack into every American’s digital communications is any example — by what logic would a drone-based effort to detect “criminals” and “terrorists” in America not also include whatever digital-hacking technologies that might help in such an effort?

And yet it still doesn’t necessarily end there. As time progresses, and as these technologies become more sophisticated — or as the drones become more intrusive — what additional drone-based detection-capabilities might also come into use?

What exactly, in essence, is entailed in the concepts of “observation”, “detection”, “tracking” — e.g., surveillance”? Isn’t this, too, a key question that we all should be asking — and for which we should demanding clear answers?

5. But is “DETECTION” all?

What if the capability to “deliver payloads” is also, at some points and in some cases, designed into any of these drones? Again, please take note of that key line in the above-mentioned Daily Mail (MailOnline) article of 24 April 2012, which states that  that at least some of the drones that are already being flown in America’s skies “may have been designed to kill terror suspects”.

So perhaps it’s not an idle question to ask whether any of these upcoming “30,000” craft may – by whatever the justification – be designed with, and operated with, the capabilities to also deliver payloads.

And what kinds of payloads might those be? Might they include, for instance, the targeted release of clouds of nanochips for tracking of (or to otherwise affect) individual targets? Or systems designed to remotely access or disable a target’s (or target-area’s) communications-grid, power-plants, computer-systems, transportation-systems — e.g., the target’s infrastructure? Or to deploy high-tech “crowd control technologies”, such as directed-energy  infra-red beams of pain or deafening beams of ultrasound or micro-second-delayed soundwave-beams that retransmit and disrupt whatever a targeted-person is trying to say — technologies that reportedly are already being developed for potential military and “crowd-control” use?

Or, as with the Predator-missions overseas — or in line with the above-mentioned Daily Mail article’s report — might any of these upcoming drones also be equipped to, as it were, “take a target out”?

And what if that “target” just happens, by intention or error, to be you?

In short, what are the limits – in actuality to what these drones will be permitted to employ?

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral - re-enactment. (Photo © by James G. Howes, 2008)

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – Tombstone, Arizona (re-enactment). (Photo © by James G. Howes, 2008)

What, by law (and by which law?), will these drones be limited to doing? What will be the safeguards, if any, against their misuse? Who will fight to crush crime and to protect our rights? And who gets to decide?

Or is this just the start of a new – but potentially of great concern to a free people – form of “the wild, wild West” — or of “1984”?

6. And what of the deployment of OTHER types of drones, on American soil?

If these currently-discussed “30,000” flying-drones are allowed, by law, to potentially intrude, within the U.S., on every person’s outdoor — or possibly even more than that — activity, who is to say that the next step — building on that precedent — won’t possibly also be the Governmental approval of the use of any of a whole range of ground-based (or ground-and-air-based) robotic devices rolling or speeding or galloping or crawling or climbing all over the place, spying on us – and possibly targeting us – at just about every turn?

Note: Will such permissions be given? Perhaps time will tell. But as to the technological side of this equation, if you think that I’m “imagining things”, may I suggest the following:

As I noted above (in my 17 August 2012 update), now DARPA has contracted with Boston Dynamics for the designing and construction of humanoid robots, those robots to be capable operating autonomously — i.e., without direct human control — and to be employed in “evacuation/pursuit” operations. Certainly these devices could serve in a way that is “angelic” — but what guarantee is there that they won’t instead be tasked to “do the work of a devil”?

“BigDog” robots trot in the shadow of an “MV-22 Osprey”. “BigDog” — modeled on the actual dynamic muscular and skeletal structure of a dog — is a dynamically stable quadruped robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics with Foster Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. “BigDog” is already in service to the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

Now take a look at this photo. Those four-legged “critters”, both of a robotic type named “BigDog”, are actual, and astoundingly capable, robots, that can rapidly walk, run, jump, climb, carry heavy loads — even be weaponized — and possess who-knows what additional capabilities their designers may choose to give them.

And that’s “just for starters”. This photo dates from 2005; just imagine how far their technological prowess may have progressed since then. But take note: this family of robots is already in military use.

Care to see more?

Go to Youtube, punch-in “Boston Dynamics” (or go to this URL: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=boston+dynamics&oq=boston&aq=5&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=youtube.1.5.0l10.841.1956.0.4275.…0.0.FsEiO4v47a0 ), look at some of their amazing videos of robotic devices that they’re building– and some of which arealready being deployed — for military and other uses.

Or, at Youtube, just punch-in the term “Robots” or “Robotics” or “Military Robotics” — for example, go to URL http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=military+robots+and+the+future+of+war&oq=military+robot&aq=3&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=youtube.1.3.0l10.13035.19767.0.23831.…0.0.Qo1nyguo-uc  — and view the videos that come up.

Or take a look at some Youtube-clips that fall under the category of “Spy Robot Insects” — at URL http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=spy+robot+insects+&oq=robot+insec&aq=3m&aqi=g2g-m3&aql=&gs_l=youtube.1.3.0l2j0i5l3.18478.22766.0.26324.…0.0.59SyIVhJ6tM — and see what a whole range of other companies and inventive technologically sophisticated individuals are coming up with in the area of robotics.

The aerial surveillance device known as the “Insectothopter”. It was designed and utilized by the CIA back in the mid-1970s. Reportedly, it showed great promise — but the project was eventually dropped due to the Insectothopter’s susceptibility to being blown about by strong winds.

Here’s one such little creature that was built for the CIA as far back as 1975: the “Insectothopter”.

About the size of a dragonfly, this spy-thing was gasoline-engine powered and actually flew. The project was reportedly eventually abandoned, as the device was difficult to control in headwinds.

But Governmental and other agencies, in the U.S. and abroad, continue to press ahead with the R&D of technologies for similar “flying-insect” robotic devices that are collectively classified as “Micro Aerial Vehicles” (MAV’s) and even tinier robotic spies classed as “Robobugs”.

For some fascinating details about those developments, you may find it worthwhile to access the article titled “From Insectothopter to Delfly” at the website of the West Holland Foreign Investment Agency, at http://www.westholland.nl/from-insectothopter-to-delfly .

But, wait a sec; as the saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”.

How about some real cybernetic creatures that are now already being created, and from which the emerging science of combining synthetic constructs with actual living organisms — whether for purposes of spying or delivering “payloads” — may well lead to monsters — insect-size or otherwise — whose missions may transform our lives in ways that, until now, have only been the stuff of science fiction horror-films and nightmares:

Bugs — yes, actual living insects — are now being experimentally, in laboratory-settings, outfitted with human-controlled neural implants that reportedly can control where, when, and how, these insects move or fly. But that’s not all. Experiments have already been demonstrating how such neural implants, into living insects, reportedly can tap into the insects’ visual systems and project onto a computer-screen what the living insect is seeing!

Evidence? Tap into these “buggy” videoclips and see for yourself:

— “Cyborg insects “: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSCLBG9KeX4&feature=fvwrel

— “Cyborg beetles to be the US military’s latest weapon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i-_1QdY2Zc&feature=related

And then also consider some of the non-biological — but perhaps in other ways astounding — shape-shifting creations that are now also under development and which, it would seem, may also be morphed into our lives in ways and for purposes — purposes perhaps including but also going beyond “surveillance” — as yet to be determined:


Would you suspect that all these developments are being pursued just for the fun of it? Or only for entertainment, or purely for positive and personally helpful purposes, or even just  for financial profit? Or to spread peace and freedom, enhance and strengthen our tenuous grasp of privacy and liberty, keep our nation and its people (and the rest of the world?) “safe and secure”? Or might some other motives — or, regardless of motives, other outcomes — perhaps, be at work?

Could the potential “filling of the skies” with drones also be part of some other plan meant to obfuscate something else that may be going on in our skies?

I don’t know — but as I implied above, I suspect that if this is all new to you, you may be find it worthwhile to carefully consider these questions.

Either way, having viewed those videos and having read-up on these robotic creations, imagine any of these creations being commissioned to come to your town and to your street — and to your house — to spy on you.

Or to do more than just that — to you.

All in the name of, ostensibly, “helping people” and “fighting terrorism” and “fighting crime”.

Well, helping people, and fighting crime and terrorism, can be a good thing, of course. And perhaps the idea of these particular types of robotic creatures coming to spy on — or to do something to — Americans on American soil, would seem — to some people at least — to extend beyond the limits of permissibility except, perhaps, as tools to truly help people in need and to avert acts of “crime” or “terrorism”.

Then again, in the current — and increasingly divisive — political climate, perhaps some people might have what in their view is a more sanguine approach to these developments.

And perhaps it all comes down to a matter of definition, and of whose definition is the one that rules.

But either way, take note:

As I mentioned above, some of these types of robots have been designed for — and are currently are being deployed in — military use in actual battlefield operations; these are not toys, nor are they fiction. Nor might their potential uses necessarily be quite so innocent.

And also take note:

What if — as in the classic Michael Palin film “Brazil” (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_%28film%29), which I highly recommend that you view — the authorities’ definition of “crime” and “terrorism” turns out to not quite dovetail with your definition of those terms?

And then ask yourself:

Against the backdrop of this current Governmental authorization for some 30,000  airborne spy-drones to fly-and-spy over localities across the U.S., is the additional thought of a similar — or more far-reaching — Governmentally-authorized use of any of these OTHER types of robotic-creations, on American soil, so far-fetched?

Too, to what extent might any of these robotic-creations, or other such creations that have yet to emerge from the drawing-boards, be empowered — whether in the near or not-so-distant future — by our representatives in Government, or by the military, or by any national, state, or local, law enforcement agencies, or even by elements of private industry, to intrude on our lives?

7. OK, so there are obviously  MAJOR Constitutional and privacy issues involved in this shift toward moving the U.S. a big step closer to becoming what some might call an increasingly-intrusive surveillance-oriented state.

“Big Brother” poster, based on George Orwell’s classic book “1984”.
(Image via Free Art License; Copyright © Frederic Guimont)

But is that degree of “surveillance” — danger to our freedoms though it may be — the limit of the problem?

Say critics, add to that scenario the impact, on our freedoms, of, for example, the Patriot Acts; the expanding encroachment on our freedoms by the TSA; NSA surveillance (according to such organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation) of millions of Americans’ telephone and  internet communications; the NDAA Acts (2012 and 2013 versions); various Executive Orders authorizing (illegally, say critics) the assassination — without notice or right to a trial — of American citizens; the FATCA Act (look it up!); and now the newly-proposed ExPATRIOT Act (which some critics say is so freedom-destructive that, in their view, it may well serve as the precursor to what they warn may be the next step: that of locking every American citizen — via the Government locking onto every American’s money — into “a land of no escape”: a financial version of the Iron Curtain, which, say critics, will have as its effect “No Exit Allowed”).

And now add these newly-authorized tens of thousands of spy-drones to the mix — and a chilling question leaps to the foreground: WHAT’S NEXT?

But “shooting-down a drone”, as FOX NEWS commentator Judge Andrew Napolitano recently referred to as some people’s proposed solution to this drone-deployment?

Not a great (or practical) solution, in my opinion — unless the goal is to actually bring the full force of the state down upon both the shooter and on anyone else who also may, collaterally, be classified — by that state — as a potential threat to the “public order”.

Well, although this is an Iraq-based U.S. Army photo of a suspect being lead to detention, maybe it still gets the idea across: for those “who take the law into their own hands” and attempt to illegally attack a Federally authorized drone, what might be the consequences?
(Image source, from Wikimedia Commons:
“Description Spc. Colby Richardson detains a man after he is identified as a possible suspect.
Date 15 June 2007
Source US Army images
Author Air Force Staff Sgt. Quinton Russ (on duty)”.)

I.e., what better opportunity — from the viewpoint of (in some people’s view) a state or authority that’s “just waiting for an excuse” — for that state to institute local, regional, or national, martial law?

Or, at a minimum, for that state or authority to simply apprehend the shooter — along with anyone and everyone that the state or authority asserts (legitimately or otherwise) was in some way “associated with” the shooter or the “plot” — and then charge him/her/them with a major crime, convict him/her/them, and throw him/her/them into prison (or, using the “military detention” provisions of the NDAA, possibly “disappear” those persons)?

Hmm, but what about shooting — or swatting with a rolled-up newspaper, for example — a “bug-drone”? For most people, isn’t swatting a bothersome bug a normal, common, thing to do?

Still, the issues would seem to be complex; and what might be the broader result if the nation were now to become a sort of “wild, wild West” where everyone — everyone who still possesses a gun — starts “shooting up the place”? This, I do not advocate.

My view: Far better to offer, and to vigorously (but within the legal system) promote, more-productive, anti-crime, pro-freedom, alternative solutions — solutions that will work to both stem this pro-surveillance-state trend (and the dangers to our freedoms that the deployment of these drones may bring), and which will also be seen as acceptably positive (and Constitutional) by our lawmakers and law-enforcers — and by We, the People.

8. But assume that this pro-drones movement just keeps burgeoning, and these spy-things get launched. What about the incidental dangers – the dangers of “collateral damage”?

Aside from the Constitutional and privacy issues, what will be the legal issues if and when any of these flying spycraft causes a passenger-plane or helicopter to crash, possibly also causing passenger-deaths?

And what will be the legal issues if any of these spycraft plummets downward — whether due to malfunction or command — or even launches an actual attack — and causes property-damage or personal-injury or death? What rights would the injured party (or the party’s family or estate) have for redress, and who should get sued?

Along those lines: contemporary news-accounts every so often tell us of how drone-attacks, by U.S.-operated airborne drones, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, have caused “collateral damage” — “damage” in which innocent civilians have been “accidentally” killed. If any such drones, with attack-capabilities, even if not intentionally targeted our way, are launched into America’s skies, who among us would feel comfortable with the possibility that we, or a family member or friend, might even remotely have the possibility of coming to be listed as “collateral damage”?

“Compensation”? Would that make such a victim “whole”?

Or would the Government (or whichever agency is involved) have already shielded itself and the drones’ manufacturers and operators from all prosecution — much as America’s vaccine-manufacturers are shielded, by Federal law, from public prosecution — even if their devices cause injury or death?

Note: The issue of whether or not these spy-drones might intentionally be employed to attack targets  is not idle speculation. Reportedly, some law enforcement authorities are already recommending that some of these drones be equipped with crowd-control devices or even weapons.

For example, CBS DC (at URL  http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/05/23/groups-concerned-over-arming-of-domestic-drones/ ) offers this report:

“Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas told The Daily that his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone.”

The Daily” also reports (at URL http://blog.thedaily.com/search/drones), in part, the following:

“The United States is beefing up its anti-terror arsenal with the Kamikaze Drone. … The drone finds you from above, divebombs and crashes into you…. Smaller than a backpack and boasting a stealthily silent motor, the Switchblades deliver real-time video to personnel who navigate them remotely, and can be steered directly into a target, where they’ll detonate on impact. Think of it as a smart, remote-control grenade with wings.”

And those examples are aside from the allegation, by critics, that all those “wonderful killing-devices and technologies”, that were developed for use in those overseas “wars against the terrorism”, are now looking for a new — and potentially profitable — home.

We can hope that those concerns are not the case. And that the American airspace deployment of drones such as these is a fully reasonable — and necessary — thing to do  in order to safeguard the nation from threats of destruction — threats which, perhaps, may be all too real.

But what if the concerns of the critics are valid — that the alleged “terrorist” threat “from outside” is actually not quite so real, and that the fact instead is that the raking-in of huge financial and political profits, and the gaining of increased control and subjugation of We, the American people, are the intended targets?

As the saying goes: stay tuned.

9. Wait there’s more! Every hear of “cyber attacks”?

Who knows what a computer-hacker, with the requisite skills, tools, and access, might be able to do in regard to any drones whose command-and-control systems are less than unbreakably secure?(Source of, and info about, the above image is descried at Wikimedia Commons as follows:
“Donart Kelmendi is a computer hackers and he has attacked Websistes of Serbia, Greece.He has attacked Serbia websiste of educational establishments and the various ministries and other regions of Serbia and other regions of Serbia very websistes.On Greece has attacked up 1.000 websistes of Grece, and enter the lot servers to TV on very states.
Date 30 January 2012
Source Own work
Author Donar7″

According to various news reports & commentaries, “cyber attacks” — whether from “hackers” or from other sources with disruptive intent — are happening now and are steadily becoming an increasing threat to the security of America’s infrastructure.

So, now plug these airborne “drones” into that equation: 30,000 (minimum, I suspect) drones flying overhead in the next several years. Who’s to say that not a single one of them — let alone any number of the full 30,000 — will be 100% secure from falling under the control of — or being operationally disrupted by — “hackers” and/or “terrorists”, who, perhaps, would figuratively “drool over the prospect” of putting those commandeered in-flight drones to other “special” use?

Where are the safeguards against that possibility from becoming a reality?

(June 25, 2012 UPDATE: Seems my speculation about “terrorists” possibly taking control of these drones was right-on-target! FOX NEWS is now reporting that this danger is real:

          “Professor Todd Humphreys and his team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Radionavigation Laboratory have just completed a successful experiment: illuminating a gaping hole in the government’s plan to open US airspace to thousands of drones.

          They could be turned into weapons.

          “Spoofing a GPS receiver on a UAV is just another way of hijacking a plane,” Humphreys told Fox News.

          In other words, with the right equipment, anyone can take control of a GPS-guided drone and make it do anything they want it to. …

          Humphreys says the implications are very serious. “In 5 or 10 years you have 30,000 drones in the airspace,” he told Fox News. “Each one of these could be a potential missile used against us.” “

(SOURCE: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/06/25/drones-vulnerable-to-terrorist-hijacking-researchers-say/#ixzz1yopyHezO)

Now envision the possibility that various of these drones, having fallen under the control of hackers — including, perhaps, criminals and “terrorists” — are also weaponized.

Get the picture?

10. So, in sum, where are all these drone-related issues actually headed?

How do we safely resolve the issues of protecting the nation from “terrorism” while also preserving our “freedom” (including not only freedom from “terrorism” but also, um, freedom from “terrorism”)?

I.e., what is the definition of “terrorism” today — and who gets to define it, especially in our current political context in which, or so it seems, the definition flexes and twists, such that, according to surveys, many Americans now fear their own Government and that same Government, in the view of some, seems to fear whole categories of the nation’s own People?

Who, then, in that context, and in the eyes of the other, becomes the potential “terrorist”?

Screenshot from the 1936 epic motion picture “Things to Come”.

And so now, against that backdrop, HERE COME THE DRONES?

As, perhaps, in this prescient clip — at URLhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPJsnTegGlA&feature=related  from the 1936 H.G. Wells epic motion picture “Things to Come”?

Hopefully all these issues will get resolved amicably, peacefully, successfully, and to the benefit of the nation, the People, and the fundamentally important concept of protecting our lives and our freedoms.

But how to achieve that goal? Or is that just “wishful thinking”?

To borrow a line from “Captain James T. Kirk”, in which he wistfully commented on the situation in which one man (“Lazarus”) and his other-dimensional counterpart (an opposite “Lazarus”) were consigned to be at each other’s throats for eternity:

“What of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?”


About Protonius

TV Producer & Series Host, Journalist, with Print & Broadcast Network experience. Interests also include politics, science, technology, holistic health/medicine; SciFi; the "paranormal" and "unexplained"; futuristics; film & the arts; music; travel; spiritual growth; improvisational comedy; and more.
This entry was posted in DRONES, POLITICAL, Sci-Tech, SURVEILLANCE, TECHNOLOGY and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.



  2. David West says:

    why not simply shoot them down? in fact, it would be “easier” to shoot down a drone knowing it’s unmanned…

  3. This is an excellent monograph, and heavily documented. In the very first of our (16) pieces of reform legislation, the AmericaAgain! Declaration states the following:

    “We the People of these fifty United States intend to lawfully, peacefully begin enforcing the Constitution in each of the 435 U.S. House districts and in each of our 50 States against its violation by our U.S. congressmen and senators, effecting such law enforcement through local AmericaAgain! chapters singly and statewide in a mechanism we shall refer to as the AmericaAgain! Indictment Engine™.

    “Our plea bargaining position to indicted members of Congress shall be simply this: We the People hereby demand that those we elected and sent to serve us in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate:

    “1) Enact legislation that:

    (a) Acknowledges the 4th Amendment privacy in the American people’s own persons, houses, papers, email and phone communications, vehicles and effects from any and all government surveillance, tracking, recording, seizure, or detainment without issuance of a specific, bona fide warrant issued on probable cause;

    (b) Repeals any portions of the FISA, RFPA, USA Patriot Act, and Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 or similar legislation that violates the First and/or Fourth Amendment rights of any American; and

    (c) Makes illegal any terrestrial, manned or unmanned aerial, or satellite optical, electronic, infrared or other surveillance or tracking of any American citizen or citizen’s vehicle, home, or property by local, state, or federal government until a judicial warrant is issued upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place, items, or files to be searched and persons or things to be seized…”

    The entire AmericaAgain! Declaration can be found here:


    The first half of the document is a declaration of the People’s grievances against this criminogenic government — which has operated since the Lincoln administration with as little regard for the rule of law as is exhibited by the average narcoterrorist.

    To understand the key tactical target for state criminal indictments against almost every member of Congress, read this monograph:


    As a practical matter of political economy, AmericaAgain! members will only seek to incarcerate a representative (pardon the pun) handful of the criminals, to prove that history is dealing a new deck. The owners/controllers of America’s politicians will recognise that We The People cut their puppet strings; now what?

    We will force our elected judges in the sovereign States to fulfil their oaths of office, or they will be replaced in special elections.

    Since Lincoln’s bloody reign, apalling mercantilist hijackings have been figureheaded by Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. In every case, rule of law, safety, and liberty were the empty appeals covering the crimes against the Constitution and our liberties.

    Rule of law works both ways. The next national cataclysm will likely not be the level of carnage that Lincoln’s war was; nor even as earth-shattering as the mercantilists’ two world wars. No; this time, the People finally break the billionaires’ ratchet. Thus, the government’s response to the tectonic shift will be nowhere as important as the response of the People.

    Say what you will of robots, drones, and satellites — rule of law is the game. My money is on the side with the Supreme Law — and a little matter of 25 million productive, liberty-loving citizens *in extremis*.

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