We never got our flying cars, hoverboards, or evolved talking ape people like science fiction promised us, but we do have something close: unmanned drones. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are kind of like Rosie the Robot, if Rosie was tasked with killing terrorists and didn't have a sassy mouth. If you could get a soulless robot to do your job for you, would you? Of course. And that's why unmanned flying drones exist and aren't going anywhere any time soon.
That's also why you should be pretty scared.
#4. The Pervert Brigade Now Has a Brand New Weapon in Its Creepy Arsenal
As long as there are women who are willing to step outside the house with more than a wristful of skin showing, there are going to be men who want to stare at them. Nobody's happy about it, but that's where we are. Up until now, women could take comfort in knowing that unless they were enormously famous or living next door to a complete creep, backyards and private homes were safe territory. Not anymore.
U.S. Navy / Getty
"Say goodbye to nude sunbathing Thursdays, gentlemen."
A student in Florida attached a camera to a flying drone and sent it for a spin ... over a completely clueless sunbather. Not to mention in front of an apartment window and over a busy freeway. Fortunately, the drone crashed without hurting anything other than our sense of privacy.
Speaking of crashing ...
#3. Drones Are Really Good at Crashing
First up, if you thought the American government was only using drones to spy on foreigners, forget it. FBI director Robert Mueller freely admits that using surveillance drones on American soil is totally an option. But you probably already knew that, right? Right.
You probably also knew that Congress passed a bill that calls for 30,000 drones up in U.S. airspace by 2030. Thirty thousand. That can mean 30,000 tiny backpack-size drones like the one the spying doofus above used to be a creep, or 30,000 Global Hawks so big they can take out 30,000 neighborhoods. Who knows? It's a mystery!
"Are you sure one guy speeding is worth glassing the whole interstate?"
In addition to the obvious problem of "Holy shit, our government is spying on us," these drones are still in the Kitty Hawk Wright Flyer stage of their development. This is brand new technology that everyone is still figuring out ... which explains why drones crash between 30 and 300 times more than similarly sized civil planes. And if you're worried why we don't have more specific statistics, so are we. It turns out drone crash numbers are pretty hard to come by.
What we do know is that on top of the regular problems that come with flying a man made machine where God never intended people to be, drones face communication glitches and risky pilot decisions made by guys playing Top Gun with their remote controlled robot plane. Once you take a human out of the aircraft, the pilots get a lot more gutsy and error prone.
Ethan Miller / Getty
Which is why the Air Force no longer lets drone pilots use hard liquor in their drinking games.
#2. They Will Swarm!
The next generation of drones are about the size of gnats and can fly, record audio and video, and adapt power from their environmental surroundings -- eliminating the need to go home and refuel. Theoretically, once these drones are launched, they can remain active for weeks at a time. Oh, and they can kill people, too. These "micro-drones" are, according to the U.S. Air Force, "Unobtrusive, pervasive, and lethal." Three words that don't belong in a string unless you're talking about a new insecticide.
These micro-UAVs are specifically designed for "homeland" use and are slated to be the next big game changer in urban warfare scenarios. A simulation of next-gen drone functionality was recently exhibited in this U.S. Army promotional video:
As you can see, next-gen micro-UAVs can be launched in a swarm from an airplane, and then perform missions as a group or individually. A single drone can be selected for "direct attack missions," where it will hang out for a few days and then shoot some sniper in the back of the head with its arsenal of "incapacitating chemicals, combustible payloads, or even explosives." Together, as a swarm. And if that not-quite-realistic computer simulation isn't scary enough for you, just know that civilian researchers have gotten further along in making bug-bots.
Fidel Castro is about to come down with a serious case of "choked to death on robots."
#1. The Only Anti-Drone Technology Available Makes You Look Like an Idiot
In the past, the go-to movie shortcut for "paranoid" was a tinfoil hat, usually perched atop a crazy-eyed nutjob. Artist Adam Harvey has updated the tinfoil hat with a line of clothes explicitly created to block infrared camera technology on drones. Unfortunately, the clothes look like this:
We're calling it Terrorist-Sheik.
The clothing uses metal fibers to reflect heat -- inward -- and is made from a material similar to the stuff they use to make fireproof suits for firefighters. Stealth Wear will literally make you invisible to drones by blocking your heat signature, which is great until you realize you're probably leaving a sweat trail everywhere you go.
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