Boing Boing 

US drones could be killing the wrong people because of metadata errors

The Intercept, the "fearless, adversarial journalism" venture launched by Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media, launched with a big boom today.

Lead story on the site right now, which is https by default (and straining under launch day load at the moment) explores "The NSA’s Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program."

The Intercept will initially focus on NSA stories based on documents provided by Edward Snowden, and this is one such story.

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California Assembly approves bills limiting use of drones by police, public agencies


An octocopter drone hovers in front of vapor trails left by aircrafts during a demonstration. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

In California, state assembly lawmakers approved a number of bills today, including a measure to limit how law enforcement and public agencies can use drones:

The bill, by Assemblymembers Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would require public agencies to destroy data collected by drones within six months and would ban the weaponization of drones in California.

It also would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to use a drone, except in certain emergency situations.

More: California Assembly approves limits on drones, paparazzi - latimes.com.

Top lawyer finds GCHQ spying is illegal & UK spies who help US drone strike may be accessories to murder


UK Labour Member of Parliament Tom Watson writes, "I thought you might be interested to read the latest developments on the drones and data collection front. I've asked privacy expert Jemima Stratford QC for her legal opinion on aspects of the Snowden revelations. Contrary to reassurance from the Foreign Secretary and Chair of the ISC she finds [PDF]:


1. interception of 'internal' contents data of British citizens in the UK is unlawful under RIPA [ed: the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000; the UK's controversial spying bill]

2. the RIPA framework is outdated and not fit for purpose, leaving British citizens exposed to unlawful interference

3. transfer of data to NSA, which shares data with CIA, leaves GCHQ officials exposed to charges of aiding murder in the UK where the government knows that data is available for use to direct drone strikes against non-combatants

Further, she argues:

4. the government should agree and publish a new memorandum of understanding with the US specifying how data from UK can be stored and used by foreign agents.

Watson doesn't do the report justice, really -- Stratford's opinion includes that UK participation in US drone strikes opens up individual UK intelligence operatives to being charged as accessories to murder. Watson sent copies of the report to all the members of the all-party parliamentary drone group, which of which he is chair. He's also sending it to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee for their own hearings on surveillance.

The Guardian has a great summary of the memo here, but really, you should read it yourself [PDF] -- it's a very quick and easy read. Stratford is a leading public law barrister, and she argues beautifully.

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Rugged drone airframe

Drone designer Marque Cornblatt and Eli DElia have designed a sturdy multicopter airframe that stands up to the typical kinds of abusive inflicted on drones by clumsy newbie pilots. He's launched a kickstarter for these nearly indestructible frames.

World's Toughest Action-Sports Airframe by Game of Drones

Autonomous multicopter made from pool noodles

Mark Harrison made a quadcopter body out of sections of pool noodle, producing a UAV that's cheap, rugged and great for practicing on. As he points out on Make, the beauty of multicopters is that they don't have to be aerodynamic and their bodies don't have any moving parts, giving you lots of flexibility in design. Plus: "Let's face it, it's just funny to think of flying pool noodles!"

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Haunted by drones

Call me juvenile, but watching a drone in a banshee costume chasing joggers just about made my day.

UK Ministry of Defense can arrest you without warrant for taking pictures, grazing animals near NSA and drone outposts

The UK Ministry of Defense has introduced by-laws in the vicinity of bases in the UK, making it a detainable offense to take pictures or make any image of any person or thing; to graze livestock; or to fail to clean up your dog's turds. The rules also allow the MoD to put you in jail "without warrant" for setting up protest camps on MoD property.

These rules come into effect just as a recent Snowden leak revealed that one of the bases in the UK was used by the NSA and GCHQ to spy on Oxfam, Medecins Sans Frontiers, as well as Angela Merkel. Another one of the affected bases is reportedly used to pilot drones deployed in Yemen.

All in all, the rules effect 150 bases around the UK. The MoD the second-largest landowner in the UK.

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DIY Drone Shadow Handbook: how to create accurate drone-shadow street art


James Bridle has released a CC-licensed DIY Drone Shadows handbook (PDF), which explains, in detail, how to make accurate drone-shadow street art in your town/neighborhood. It's part of a larger project around Dirty Wars, a documentary on drone warfare currently touring the UK.

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Institute for the Future forecasted Amazon's drone delivery in 2012

ZAmazondroneIFTF

At the nonprofit Institute for the Future thinktank where I'm a researcher, we always say, "Never believe anyone who says they can predict the future, especially if they're from California." We don't make point predictions but rather describe future forces we think will have big impacts on the way we live. Sometimes though, IFTF just nails it. The image above is an "Artifact from the Future" that my colleagues Jason Tester and Nic Weidinger created during the fall of 2012, more than a year before Jeff Bezos announced Amazon's drone delivery plans. We use these physical mock-ups and prototypes of imaginary products, objects, and services to make our forecasts more tangible. The above artifact was part of our Future of Coordination research you can check out here. Here's the artifact description:

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Amazon Prime Air: drone-based 30 minute delivery

Jeff Bezos took to 60 Minutes to announce Prime Air, a drone-based 30-minute delivery system for densely populated areas that comes with its own video design-fiction illustrating how it might work. The vision is an exciting one, but the designfic elides some important questions like the regulatory framework under which thousands (millions?) of drones might share the sky as businesses compete to do airborne delivery; whether that framework would be sufficient to actually maintain public safety (hello midair drone collision over a busy highway with attendant plummeting shrapnel into the path of speeding cars!); and what the energy and carbon footprint of drones would be, especially with comparison to conventional delivery logistics.

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Drone strike survivors from Pakistan speak to Congress; only five lawmakers bother to show up (video)

In the video above, Rafiq ur Rahman, a drone strike survivor from Pakistan, speaks at a congressional briefing in Washington, DC convened by Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-09). The primary school teacher spoke with his daughter Nabila (9) and son Zubair (13). One year ago, they were injured in the same drone strike that killed their 67-year-old grandmother, Rafiq's mother, as she was tending crops in her garden.

Kevin Gosztola of Firedog lake attended the briefing, and writes: "It is heart-wrenching to hear a 13-year-old boy say, 'Congressman Grayson, I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,' because this is one of the few times he is not afraid he will be targeted by a drone."

From Kevin's report:

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Micro dronecopter aerobatics

Joly sez, "Experts, activists, and makers from all over the world gathered last weekend for the first ever Drone and Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC) in NYC. One theme was miniaturization. Smaller UAVs are more agile, and less dangerous, although, as of now, they still suffer from the same FAA restrictions as their larger cousins. Another popular feature was FPV (First Person View) where flyers drive their drones via remote displays. One spectacular demo that combined both was from Eirik Solheim of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation who flew a 25 gram 3D printed $169 Micro Quadcopter out the stage's backdoor and into the backstage passages of the venue, and back. (here's video of the entire first day)"

DARC22 Eirk Solheim - Micro Quadcopter (Thanks, Joly!)

Rocket launch filmed by drone

The SpaceX Grasshopper's latest launch—and graceful descent!—captured by a drone-mounted camera. Grasshopper was most recently seen terrifying the cows.

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F-16 fighter jet converted into drone

Planeeeee

Boeing and the US Air Force have converted retired F-16 fighter jets into drones, designated as QF-16s. According to Boeing, "While in the air, the QF-16 mission included a series of simulated maneuvers, reaching supersonic speeds, returning to base and landing, all without a pilot in the cockpit." The military claims that they will use the drones for dogfight training. Video of the first pilotless test flight below. (Thanks, David Steinberg!)

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Drone's-eye-view of Burning Man

[Video Link] Matthew says, "Filmmaker Eddie Codel used a DJI Phantom drone and a GoPro Hero3 camera to film a "drone’s eye view" of Burning Man."

1939 Gumps comic strip predicts modern drone warfare

[high res] Everyone knows about this comic book, which Dick Cheney read as a boy and later used as the basis of his foreign policy during the Bush administration. Here's another comic, from 1939, that predicts modern drone warfare. (Thanks, Randy Regier!)

Burning Man drone rules

This year, the Burning Man Organization has set out rules for drone operation on the playa, developed in concert with drone-hobbyist/burners who attended a summit at BMOHQ on July 17. The rules include a common-sense safety code, parameters on where/when/who can be videoed; fire safety rules; spectrum management procedures; and guidance on elevation and wind.

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Self-assembling, multi-rotor drones

The Distributed Flight Array is an experimental project from ETH Zurich; it's a set of 3D-printed hexagonal rotors with magnets on their edges; they automatically join up with one another, sense and compute the aerodynamic properties of their current configuration, and cooperate to fly together.


The system is designed around a central propeller which provides thrust for the structure. Surrounding it are three omni-directional wheels that let the bots get into position with each other on the ground while magnets embedded in the frame provide a connection. A gyroscope provides positional information to an on-board microprocessor while an infrared sensor feeds information about altitude to the system. Pins allow the collected bots to communicate this real-time data between each other and adjust their individual thrusts to keep the combined unit stable. Despite the sensitive nature of the electronics, when a flight is over, the bots disengage midair and fall safely to the ground where the process can begin anew.

Individual units can only propel themselves spastically around a room, but when joined the DFA modules can create traditional quadcopters, more advanced decacopters, and their most impressive applications are atypical and asymmetrical arrays that defy traditional aeronautic aesthetics. These odd combos often produce interesting flight patterns — in one configuration where the bots are aligned linearly, the construct appears to flap as the opposite ends try to reach equilibrium.

...Next steps for the project will be removing the last vestiges of human control—currently a motion-capture system or an operator using a joystick has to provide a small amount of feedback to keep the system from drifting away. The hope is that the DFA becomes completely autonomous and increasingly versatile. “What I would love to see is in-flight reconfiguration,” says Oung. “Which I think is certainly possible with the current system.”

Watch: Autonomous Robots Self-Assemble and Take Flight as One [Joseph Flaherty/Wired]

(via /.)

Hunting license for Fed drones

Deer Trail, a small town near Denver, is contemplating issuing $25/year hunting licenses for Federal drones. No drones are reported to have ever flown over Deer Trail, and it would likely be a federal crime to destroy one, but the mayor clearly views this as a way of sending a message to Washington, and of making some easy money for the town. (via MeFi)

Interview with a US Air Force drone pilot

"Albert Hibpshman is a United States Air Force (USAF) pilot of manned and unmanned aircrafts. During his recent deployment to Afghanistan, Hibpshman was a Mission Commander flying MC-12Ws [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircrafts] as well as a Group Liaison Officer, responsible for the coordination between five flying squadrons and Army, Marine and special forces units at bases spread throughout southern Afghanistan." Speaking with Muftah.org, Hibpshman shares his personal experience with contemporary drone warfare, and the human side of cyberwar.

Drone-it-yourself kit


"The DIY (Drone It Yourself) v1.0 kit offers you the opportunity to turn any object into a drone*, simply by attaching four motors and a control unit -- no technical know-how needed. The kit consists of multiple parts that are easy to assemble and can be attached to a wide range of different objects"

DIY (Drone It Yourself) - Jasper van Loenen

US drone strikes kill more civilians in Afghanistan than manned fighter aircraft

Spencer Ackerman, formerly of Wired News and now with the Guardian, reports today: "A study conducted by a US military adviser has found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft." The new study was referenced in an official US military journal, and shows that US officials' claims that unmanned planes can target more efficiently than manned counterparts are not true. [guardian.co.uk]

Turkish cops shoot a protester's drone out of the sky

Above, footage of a protester's quadcopter in Gezi Park getting shot down by the Turkish Police. Below, the footage of police violence the drone had been capturing (complete with music that sounds like it came out of an orc-fighting scene in the Hobbit). Ahead of us: a long, weird future history of protest.

Tuesday afternoon on June 11th 2013, Police was violently attacking peaceful protestors. Police fired guns at one of our RC drone during the protests in Taksim square, Istanbul. Police aimed directly at the camera. Due to the impact on the camera (it did have a housing) the last video was not saved properly on the SD card. The camera and drone were both broken. Managed to keep the SD card. Here is the footage from that camera! This footage you are about to see is from the prior flights minutes before the incident.

Turkish drone shooting heralds a new age of civillian counter-surveillance

Handgun drone unsuccessfully shoots mobile phone

Spocko sez, "In this commercial for a cell phone screen protector product, a quadcopter flies up to some fruit, sodas and a cell phones and shoots them with a remote controlled handgun. The company, Clearplex, has many videos of it's screen protector products being shot at, so this one is a natural, although creepy, extension of that series. The video is edited so it's hard to know how accurate the quad-copter is, but consider how apparently easy creating this one was,what's the next step?"

Drone vs Phone: Samsung Galaxy S IV - GunDrone (Thanks, Spocko)

By His Things Will You Know Him (podcast)


(art by Daniel Martin Diaz)

Earlier today, we published my story "By His Things Will You Know Him," which is from the forthcoming Institute for the Future anthology "An Aura of Familiarity: Visions from the Coming Age of Networked Matter." I've read the story aloud for my podcast, if that's how you prefer your fiction.

MP3 Link

Radio-seeking drone

TRAQ is a senior project from a group of Northeastern University engineering students; it's a quadcopter that seeks out and homes in on radio signals. As they write, "The quadcopter's potential applications include disaster relief, surveillance, search-and-rescue, and stolen goods recovery."

I'm interested in the technology as a way to get cameras automatically directed to hotspots in places like Gezi Park -- the drones could automatically focus on police based on their emergency radios, ensuring that the cops were always in shot.

TRAQ Quadcopter (via Engadget)

Hubsan X4 quadcopters: tiny cheap, powerful copter


The Hubsan X4 quadcopter is a tiny, cheap copter with enough power to do flips, enough smarts to stay level and pointing right, and enough tough to drop from 50 foot onto grass without damage. It flies for ten minutes or so and recharges from USB. The separately available spares package include copious spare blades, a spare shell and a spare battery.

It's cheap (under £30), includes a remote control and is an absolute blast to fly. It can handle quite a fresh wind and is fast enough that it's best fun outdoors, though it appears that people more skilled than I can also fly it indoors. Without hitting things.

BTW, important hint: connect the power when the copter is on a level surface. If you don't, it's impossible to fly.

Hubsan X4 H107 R/C Micro Quad Copter 2.4GHZ [Amazon UK]

The Hubsan X4 H107 Quadcopter Crash Pack [Amazon UK]

Hubsan X4 H107 R/C Micro Quad Copter 2.4GHZ [Amazon US]

The Hubsan X4 H107 Quadcopter Crash Pack [Amazon US]

Game of Drones - video show about drone fighting

"Hi, and welcome to Game of Drones, the new show where we design, build, and fight unmanned aerial vehicles." A fun show with a lot of good info for budding drone enthusiasts.

Drone-delivered pizza

Here's a video showing off a publicity stunt in which Domino's delivers one of its "pizzas" using a drone (and, it appears, two or three cameradrones to document the event). The "pizza" is packed in an electrified, heated bag to keep it warm during the high altitude flight. Their publicity material promises a Domino's flight academy to train their deliverator corps to safely navigate the fast-food-filled skies and prevent midair collisions with flying Chinese takeouts, kebabs, curries, and package liquor delivery.

Introducing the Domino's DomiCopter! (via Digg Videos)

Germany tests anti-graffiti drones

German railway operator Deutche Bahn is to target graffiti artists with surveillance drones: "The idea is to use airborne infra-red cameras to collect evidence, which could then be used to prosecute vandals who deface property at night."