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Subject:So farewell then, privacy...
Time:12:28 am
Noticed in Maplin's current advertising flyer - three radio-controlled aircraft with built-in cameras, two helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The cheapo helicopter is £49.99 and basically a toy - 40M control range and the camera is only 0.3MP recording to an SD card. The other helicopter (£149.99) has 100M control range and a 5MP camera, and transmits video to its operator. And the plane (£199.99) appears to have remote control and autopilot capability, transmits video up to 400M, and again has a 5MP camera.

I'm willing to bet that the paperazzi are already finding uses for this kit. Fly the copter up the outside of a hotel where your favourite Hollywood star is staying, send the plane over that really private nudist beach used by the royals, etc. etc.

What's the next stage? Weaponisation? Probably not easy, these things don't have much payload capability, but certainly a possibility. Wouldn't surprise me to see them with toy weapons, e.g. laser tag guns and receivers. And of course you could use something like that to paint a target for something more lethal...

I think the only writer who foresaw this really early was Charlie Stross, some of the possibilities are discussed in Accelerando (I think). Be very interesting to see where the technology goes.
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robertprior
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Time:2012-11-20 01:34 am (UTC)
David Brin predicted this in 1998, in his non-fiction book The Transparent Society.
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 02:29 am (UTC)
OK, wasn't aware of that one. Any other uses for this stuff suggested?
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johnreiher
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Time:2012-11-20 07:11 am (UTC)
They copters are being used to track deforestation in Sumatra:

http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/conservationists-launch-cheap-drone-monitor-deforestation-and-endangered-species.html
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 07:42 am (UTC)
That sounds more of a custom-built job (and probably has better range and cargo capacity than the toys I mention); it's the fact that these things are available ready-made and so cheap that interests me, now you don't need electronics expertise etc. to own your own personal spy plane.
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robertprior
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Time:2012-11-20 06:28 pm (UTC)
I suspect Brin would approve of these, as long as private citizens can use them. What worries him (at least in TS) is that governments will restrict private access to information. His point (and I'm oversimplifying) is that the rich and powerful can already get access to information about us, so the only thing that will preserve our freedom is if we can look back at them. ("Sousveillance", I think he calls it.)

I'd suggest reading the book. I think you'd enjoy it, even if you don't agree with him on everything.
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 08:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks - if it comes my way I'll take a look.
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robertprior
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Time:2012-11-20 11:01 pm (UTC)
More casual and rambling than the book (it's a blog post, after all) but riffing on the same themes:

http://davidbrin.blogspot.ca/2012/11/is-law-enforcement-going-dark-dilberts.html
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aadler
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Time:2012-11-20 01:59 am (UTC)
And David Morrell did an early version of the idea (using a radio-controlled model plane augmented with C-4) in the Brotherhood of the Rose.
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 02:33 am (UTC)
The weapons side of thing has come up a few times - for example, there was an episode of The Man From UNCLE in which a model plane crashes on the roof of UNCLE HQ and they guess it might be a bomb.

The combination of cheapness plus camera plus limited autonomy (in the case of the fixed-wing aircraft) is new to me, apart from the Stross story, and must be worrying a lot of people.
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daveon
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Time:2012-11-20 02:31 am (UTC)
In the US there is already some discussion over this as technically they count as drones and drone use over US land is currently a very grey area of law.

Even the law enforcement agencies are not sure what to do about it.

That said, Seattle PD were showing off their model helicopters with cameras the other month.
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 02:37 am (UTC)
Belatedly remember that Bones had something similar (using a model plane to go over private land and see something that might justify issuing a search warrant) a few weeks ago.
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jordan179
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Time:2012-11-20 07:03 am (UTC)
The really interesting question is -- how to defend against mini-drones?
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 07:37 am (UTC)
Keep lots of pigeons?
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 11:10 am (UTC)
Or (as the Duke of Wellington said when Victoria asked him how to keep birds out of the Crystal Palace) "Sparrow hawks, your majesty."
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jordan179
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Time:2012-11-20 03:44 pm (UTC)
In the sense of military defense, obvious counters would be small-caliber automatic weapons (given the size of the mini-drones, weapons down to 2mm or so would probably be highly effective), similarly tiny SAM's, or armed interceptor mini-drones. In terms of privacy, though -- I can see problems with air defense battles erupting over the homes of celebrities in built-up urban areas. Probably, a combination of new legislation (or better yet, re-interpretation of existing law) and law enforcement by police also equipped with such tools would work best.
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 08:29 pm (UTC)
Since the fixed wing aircraft is made mostly out of styrofoam it may be able to take a surprising amount of damage - bullets might go straight through if they don't hit anything vital. Legislation may be a better bet.
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jordan179
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Time:2012-11-22 04:45 pm (UTC)
Legislation works well for civilian life, but even there you need effective law enforcement, which means that either the targets or the police need to have some sort of countermeasures. Perhaps mini-fighters or AAA/SAM's, but using nonlethal methods? A mini-drone could be fouled by a net or foam which would be laughable to a full-sized drone.

On the battlefield, of course, you'd need to jam the enemy drones or shoot them down. Small explosive bullets, perhaps? Rip a wing clean off and the target's going to stop flying, and the effect would be even more dramatic if the hit was to the fuselage.

Of course the enemy drone operators would respond by nap-of-the-earth flying, which could be very nap-of-the-earth with planes this small. So the defenders would have to be very careful where they were shooting, or they could do more damage to their own camp than they were doing to the drone, or that the drone would be capable of doing!
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vicarage
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Time:2012-11-20 05:29 pm (UTC)
Animal rights group take on illegal pigeon shooters with drone, and get shot down!

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/12/11/19/213223/activists-drone-shot-out-of-the-sky-for-fourth-time?sbsrc=md
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 08:13 pm (UTC)
You couldn't make that up!
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beamjockey
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Time:2012-11-22 04:25 pm (UTC)
Smoke or fog might be a good countermeasure.
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pengshui_master
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Time:2012-11-20 11:18 am (UTC)
RFI should work too against the non-military ones.

I suspect the military have got specific defence against RFI attacks since it's a pretty obvious attack vector.
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ffutures
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Time:2012-11-20 02:54 pm (UTC)
I guess - might not be popular in a city, of course.
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