Killer Drones

Obama Embraces Killer Drones with Communications Problems

As bmaz pointed out last week (and Darkblack illustrated so brilliantly), killer drones are coming to America.

In fact, they’re coming to America in more formalized fashion, as Janet Napolitano confirmed that the US will add drones to the Texas border.

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it will station an aerial drone in Texas as part of its stepped-up surveillance of criminal trafficking along the Mexican border.

[snip]

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) had pressed for months for a pilotless drone, and when it was slow in coming, Cornyn blocked Senate confirmation of Michael Huerta to be deputy director of the FAA.

On Wednesday, after learning that the agency had given its approval for the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, to operate in Texas, Cornyn said he would allow a vote on Huerta.

“While the approval process should not have taken this long, I’m pleased to see the FAA moving forward,” he said. “The FAA needs to implement a system that will reflect the great importance of border security as well as the growing significance of UAVs in homeland security and national defense.”

This bodes ill not just because it probably starts us down a slippery slope that will bring drones patrolling skies near you. But also because the drones aren’t exactly fail safe, as Noah Shachtman reported last week.

For years, drone proponents have pestered the Federal Aviation Administration to let more robotic planes fly in American airspace. For years, the FAA has squirmed; they don’t want the drones wandering off-course over Cleveland, or smacking into a traditional airplane as it makes its way to O’Hare.

Incidents like this won’t help that comfort level: The first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flying on a Texas-Mexico border security mission lost communications with its remote cockpit, leading to undisclosed “pilot deviation,” a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson tells the Brownsville Herald.

No word on whether American hackers have figured out a way to hack drones the way the Iranians did.

Killer Drones Coming To America!

Like all new fads that start overseas and eventually make their way here to the US as the next “new thing”, drones are on their way to our friendly skies. From AP via Google News:

Unmanned aircraft have proved their usefulness and reliability in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now the pressure’s on to allow them in the skies over the United States.

The Federal Aviation Administration has been asked to issue flying rights for a range of pilotless planes to carry out civilian and law-enforcement functions but has been hesitant to act. Officials are worried that they might plow into airliners, cargo planes and corporate jets that zoom around at high altitudes, or helicopters and hot air balloons that fly as low as a few hundred feet off the ground.

On top of that, these pilotless aircraft come in a variety of sizes. Some are as big as a small airliner, others the size of a backpack. The tiniest are small enough to fly through a house window.

Exciting! Cops want to use them to catch speeders, monitor traffic and track suspects (that is pretty much all of us). Border Patrol and Sheriff Joe Arpaio want to use them to chase down the brown (skinned that is). Fed Ex wants them so they don’t have to actually pay pilots. And the NSA wants them to spy on “suspicious” people (like the writers on this blog). Hey, it’s all good; what’s the loss of a little privacy when it comes to protecting America?

There is a tremendous pressure and need to fly unmanned aircraft in (civilian) airspace,” Hank Krakowski, FAA’s head of air traffic operations, told European aviation officials recently. “We are having constant conversations and discussions, particularly with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, to figure out how we can do this safely with all these different sizes of vehicles.

Excellent! Because I will feel a lot better when the DOD and DHS have the “civilian airspace” saturated with their freaking drones; won’t you? Of course you will. And we are on the way there too. From Government Executive:

The Homeland Security Department expanded the use of unmanned drones along the U.S.-Mexico border this week, flying for the first time this sort of advanced technology in west Texas.

The Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle is providing support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help interdict drug smugglers and detect people trying to enter the United States illegally, key lawmakers said.

Texas lawmakers have been clamoring for years to have an unmanned drone assist in border security operations, but the move had been delayed by bureaucratic wrangling between DHS and the Federal Aviation Administration. Drone flights along the Southwest border had been limited to regions in Arizona and New Mexico.
……
By putting eyes in the sky along the Rio Grande, we will gather real-time intelligence on the ground to augment the good work of federal, state and local law enforcement….

Well, so drones are here among us, at least those of us near the Mexican border; and they are here to stay. Government drones are going to be ever more pervasive and ubiquitous throughout the entirety of the country if the law and order types in the federal, state and local governments have anything to say about it. And they will have their say; count on it. Swell, eh?

So, with all of the Afghani, Pakistani and Iraqi wedding parties that have been taken out by US Predator drone strikes, how long before they hit one of our precious wedding celebrations right here in the homeland of the good old “real America”? What will the NeoCon wingnuts say when it hits their own chosen ones?

[Incredibly awesome graphic by the one and only Darkblack. If you are not familiar with his work, or have not seen it lately, please go peruse the masterpieces at his homebase. Seriously good artwork and incredible music there.]

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bmaz @kevinjonheller So, you are with me on Sam Power, but not football? I'll live with that!
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