Are RoboDragonflies Monitoring Political Events?
No agency admits it, but apparently there are
dragonfly-like insect spies flying over political events! Protestors
beware! It's all the buzz in Washington and New York that there have
been various sightings of insect-like drones flying over political
events. Could this be part of the FBI, CIA or Department of Homeland
Security Spying on its citizens? There's not too much data in this
article, but plenty of FUD. There's also a lot of government
denying any such thing. I smell a conspiracy! Spying robotic insect
drones? Naw, we shouldn't be worried...
or should we?
More links to Dragonfly spies:
FUD?, posted 10 Oct 2007 at 18:36 UTC by Rog-a-matic »
We already know the current administration is spying on US citizens
in several different ways, why not one more. They don't seem to have any
ethical problem with this sort of thing. But, since they deny these are
official US government robots, there's no harm in capturing one, right?
How about a contest to build a flying robot that can track and
capture slow-moving surveillance drones. From the descriptions these
could be fixed-wing MAVs rather than actually flapping-wing, insect
things. Either way they're probably very slow moving and lightweight. A
bigger, traditional UAV could probably be designed to detect and track
them. Some of the DPRG guys have been
talking about building flying robots and this would be a cool project.
I wonder if there are any websites collecting video and other evidence
about these non-governmental, non-spying, goverment spy robots? I
noticed the video in the Washington Post article is just a hobbyist built,
RC ornithopter. Where's the video of the alleged real thing?
Real dragonflies, posted 10 Oct 2007 at 20:29 UTC by steve »
One of the interesting explanations in the Washington Post article is
that these are real dragonflies. I bet a lot of people attending
political events have never seen a real dragonfly before. Like humming
birds, their movements seem very unnatural at first so it wouldn't be
hard to conclude they're machines.
I want one!, posted 10 Oct 2007 at 20:55 UTC by jeffkoenig »
I'll be sure to bring a butterfly net and a Wham-O air blaster to all the outdoor events political events that I attend.
If this site is to be believed, this photo is from the CIA's Exhibit Center. Truth? Fiction? Next year's must-have gift? Who knows?
Are there any native birds that pluck dragonflies out of the air and eat them? I wonder if any will break a beak on one of these.
I don't doubt that such a craft will eventually be possible, even close, or even exists in large form already. But I doubt that a super-secret, multi-million $ flying insect spy robot was used on this crowd of protesters.
Why would someone be concerned that their actions are being recorded in a public space?
Isn't publicity the reason for such a public rally? To have everyone look at, record, and replay their actions?
If it was discovered that this was a spy robot used by a major media outlet and the images played on the nightly news repeatedly, would they be pleased?
Hows and Whys, posted 12 Oct 2007 at 01:45 UTC by steve »
The whys are less interesting to me than the how. The Nixon
administration conducted massive illegal spying operations on US
citizens too. Who knows why some administrations do this - they're
paranoid I guess. I doubt the protesters are concerned about legitimate
media coverage, they most likely want it. Having secret files compiled
on individuals for illegal purposes is the probably what the protestors are
If the dragonflybot is real (until I see video of
one, I'm betting they're not), what I'd be more intrested in is how
Mechanically, they've had this sort of thing working for a while. The
show stoppers are powering it and making it smart enough to fly as well
as a real insect. Power is probably within the realm of government
budgets. One of those MEMs hydrogen turbines we've reported on here, for
example, might do the job. Making it smart enough looks like the hardest
problem to me. Most MAVs work pretty badly when they get hit by a gust
of wind but take a look at how well a real dragonfly or even a butterfly
Dragonflies in particular have spectacular flying abilities that allow
them to prey on other flying insects. They can move backwards or
sideways for starters. Because most insects detect movement in their
visual field, dragonflies can follow bizarre trajectories that make them
appear stationary to other flying insects as they approach for the kill.
And they do it all with about the same processing power as a 1GHZ Intel
desktop box. I've yet to see any software come close to
the things a dragonfly brains does. Subsumption is probably the most
advanced robot control method to date but I'm not sure it's up to a
task like that.
Of course, as noted in the article, the cyborg insect program we
reported on a while back is also real (though the DARPA HI-MEMS
project claims to use moths rather than dragonflies). This solves
and brains problem by using a live insect with
sensor, control, and telemetery implants linked back to a remote control
unit that guides the insect to the surveillance target. So it's at least
conceivable that this was a test of something similar by another agency.
Historically, it's not unknown for weapon and surveillance systems to be
tested on US
citizens. Just last year the Bush administration called for testing of
the Air Force's Silent Gaurdian weapon on US Citizens
before deploying it on the battefield. It's a high-powered, non-lethal
microwave weapon design to inflict disabling pain by frying the outer
layers of skin. The plan was to test it on
political protestors among other groups. Don't know if they went through
with it once the press found out.