By TLB Contributor: Ken LaRive
Though the fear of privacy-breeches are real, it looks like drones are here to stay. Police can canvas a crime scene fast without the expense of a helicopter; fireman can survey a fire from any angle with heat sensitive infrared; unmanned cargo planes are planned to be operational by the end of 2015; and the military can use drones for a wide rage of uses in the theater of war, both observational and armed.
We owe these multiple applications to a wide variety of software, and it has given RC users in the private sector a range of big-boy toys as well, crumbs, I speculate, from the table of the military industrial complex. One can only imagine what capabilities they now have, and we Libertarians can only hope that those in charge can refrain from using them without a Constitutional base, or rule of law. A rather naive thought I suppose… and even with this said, what is now available for the private sector is nothing short of amazing. Drones for the common man, inspired by the industry of war, and built in China…
One of these spectacular new flying devices, a quad-copter carrying a camera payload, was released just a few weeks ago: The DJI Phantom 2 Vision.
For those of you not familiar with it, this is DJI’s update to its wildly popular Phantom quad-copter, released just under a year ago, January 2013. The DJI Phantom quad-copter marked the emergence of a substantial consumer market in the mid-price range. And while there were certainly some Ready to Fly (RTF) quad-copter models out there before the Phantom, DJI really brought this category of products into a whole new market segment – something far beyond the hobbyists and tinkerers. Noteworthy were The Parrot AR.Drone and the AR.Drone 2.0… They helped the quad-copter market come of age, but compared to the Phantom 2 Vision they are but mere toys.
The DJI Phantom brought an extremely capable quad-copter platform into consumer hands at a relatively reasonable price – $699 for most of this year, but now that the Phantom 2 has made its entrance, that price is slipping… The Phantom 2 offers GPS navigation, enhanced payload capacity, increased range and control, and a more robust flying experience to consumers. It features an easy-mount HD video recording camera capability controlled by your IPhone, and a new battery capable or 25 minutes flying time. It is an extension of the original Phantom’s GoPro success that dominated the market with its compatibility with the HERO line of cameras… And it is a total package, from a sleek design to extensive marketing and PR, and something you just haven’t seen from its former competition, Syma, Walkera, and Blade.
Of course I had to have one, and ordered it from “http://www.aerialtechnology.com/” just yesterday. DJI were so excited to get this version on the market, a carrying case and what I consider should be standard, safety prop guards, are not yet available. But enthusiasts like myself, who have patiently awaited the Phantom 2 since its sneak preview six months ago, know well that a pre-order of these amenities will insure that you will be the first on your block to receive them.
On the DJI web site there are many videos that will stir your imagination, and its applications are unlimited, from rock climbing to hovering over Niagara Falls. I’m thinking of the possibilities of a hunt, where the quarry can be observed at a thousand feet, with minimal noise and a high resolution camera directed by your I-phone! I also envision driving down our Louisiana beaches and trails riding a Polaris RZR, while the Phantom keeps pace at about 30 mph. Wow! Hovering over a lake while you jet ski, or kayak, just seems too bazaar to believe! Well, I have about three more days to go before its arrival, with shipping USPS ground for free, and I really regret that now, as I can think of little else… I go to sleep and wake up thinking about it…
A Phantom 2 Vision costs US$1,199.00, and its proper case will be about $200.00. A look at what is being produced on UTube, and you will undoubtedly be hooked.
Here are it’s amazing Specs:
- Lightweight, multifunctional integrated aircraft and camera
- Camera remote-control by DJI VISION App
- Range Extender increases Wi-Fi distance to 300m, over 1000 feet
- Anti-vibration camera platform with single axis stabilization
- Low-voltage protection
- Virtual Radar aircraft locator on mobile device
- Range of camera tilt options
- Multiple, continuous and timed capture options
- HD Video Recording (1080/p30 or 1080/60i)
- RAW and JPEG picture formats
The military drones…
But there is another Phantom that will fill the American skies soon, the Boeing’s Phantom Eye… To be used by the military, it is a High-Altitude Long-Endurance aircraft, and has recently been unveiled…
The Phantom Eyes is Boeing’s first hydrogen powered unmanned drone. It has a 150 foot wingspan, cruses at about 150 knots, and can carry a payload of 450 pounds. It can stay aloft for four days, at an altitude of 65,000 feet… and though it’s primary application has not yet been announced, its use will be very diverse…
Darryl Davis, president of Boeing Phantom Works, said: “Phantom Eye is the first of its kind and could open up a whole new market in collecting data and communications… It is a perfect example of turning an idea into a reality. It defines our rapid prototyping efforts and will demonstrate the art-of-the-possible when it comes to persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The capabilities inherent in Phantom Eye’s design will offer game-changing opportunities for our military, civil and commercial customers.”
Now if you are afraid these drones may be watching you, consider the new “Global Hawk.” It is one of the US military’s most sophisticated spy plane to date, and it can be found at Grand Forks Airbase in North Dakota.
The Global Hawk can spy on an entire country without going into their air space. It can travel half way around the world on one tank of fuel, and can identify a single man on the ground, even through clouds, at about 59,000 feet. This is the class of Remotely Piloted Aircraft that is the most controversial, as they are used by the CIA, along with the Reaper and Predator, for highly clandestine strikes and observations. Some even speculate, though unproven, that it has the ability to use lasers, and disruptor sound waves as weapons.
The Global Hawk specs:
- Wingspan: 40m (132ft)
- Height: 5m (15ft)
- Length: 15m (48ft)
- Endurance: 30+ hours
- Range: +19,000km (+12,000 miles)
- Altitude: 18,000m (60,000ft) – most airlines fly below 9,000m)
- Payload: 1,360kg (3,000lbs), including surveillance or communications equipment
And no matter what the adversity, these unmanned aircraft are the future. The NATO alliance just purchased five Global Hawks at a cost of $1.7bn (1.2bn euros), said to be for maritime security, and troop support. But Global Hawk’s PR, (lobbying), is pushing the craft to participate in the aftermath of natural disasters, one of which was its deployment to observe the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. In 2010 it was used to map and survey the sweeping devastation of Haiti’s earthquakes, and was said to have contributed greatly to the rescue effort.
But there are still plenty of questions and a multitude of considerations as to how drones can be safely integrated and incorporated into civilian airspace, and how the average person might feel about a constant 24/7 unblinking eye in the sky. Nothing in the past, from Google Earth to Airport scans can match the Global Hawk’s ability to reap an image, collect data, and trend. Close to deep space, it is undetected by conventional radar, and is virtually invisible to the naked eye. We are now asked to trust that such power in the hands of a few will not be corrupted or compromised, but that is not what history has taught us, and it is certainly not the reality of the world today…
Liberty, freedom, privacy will be the greatest trust issues of our new world order, where real-time data will predict your next move, for every man, woman and child. And so, when that idea comes of age, when it manifests itself into the framework of our lives, we will have to trust or not… You see, your so-called original thoughts could be manipulated, and with enough raw data your future actions can be predicted, and so controlled. And your life, your free will, your future… could no longer belong to you… Your mind will be second-guessed to an 88 to 92 percent accuracy. And your credit card purchases, grocery store, department store, and pharmacy “club” data, along with analysis by super computers of your already stolen phone and Email records… Well… your future could, and most likely will be mapped out for you… with no place to hide. Unless, of course, you emphatically and collectively say no… because safety, the biggest argument, at the sacrifice of liberty, will negate both.