Tag Archives: Drones

New documents show al-Qaeda’s fight against drones

According to a report in the Washington Post al-Qaeda leaders have groups of technical staff, including engineers, working on plans and ideas that will give them a better chance to fight US drone aircraft.

These ways could include shooting the drones down, jamming the radio signals that control them or even hijacking the drones, effectively making them do the bidding of al-Qaeda.

According to the report in the Washington Post, there have been few signs of any successes since the al-Qaeda programme was launched in 2010.

The information comes from a classified government report, called “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”, which was provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden.

Although this is perhaps not news to some, the fact that al-Qaeda are actively engaged in this sort of programme is worrisome when one considers the U.S. Airforce Scientific Advisory Board’s two-year old report that warned of how:

““increasingly capable adversaries” in countries such as Afghanistan could threaten drone operations by inventing inexpensive countermeasures.”

That’s basically people who know a hell of a lot about unmanned flying vehicles telling you that people like the one’s mentioned in the other report are getting closer and closer to working out how to stop them / bring them down / take control of them….

Let fly the drones of…anti-grafitti?

Deutsche Bahn, the German national rail service, are planning on testing drones to see if the autonomous flying vehicles can help lower the number of incidences where their property is hit by grafitti-artists. And people just equipped with spraycans and a massively inflacted idea of their street art potential.

According to a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn, the drones will take to the air ‘soon’.

Cleaning away grafitti supposedly costs the company around $10 million every year.

Police drone saves man in Canada

A drone aircraft was recently used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to save a life in the middle of nowhere, Saskatchewan.

The mounties used a Draganflyer X4-ES helicopter drone to find and treat a man whose car had flipped over.

The Draganflyer used a mounted infrared camera to locate the driver, who was then treated by emergency responders and taken to hospital.

See a video of the rescue here:

Iranians designing lifeguard drone

Scientists and engineers at RTS Lab in Tehran, Iran, are busy designing a quadcopter capable of saving people in risk of drowning.

The quadcopter will be able to locate potential drowning victims using thermal image cameras. Once it has flown to a location above them, it will then dispense life-preservers.

RTS Lab has built a prototype capable of carrying one life-preserver, but are working on a new quadcopter capable of carrying three. And, according to RTS Lab, that’s just the beginning of the good news.

On their website, they write that:

“So far 3 pads have been considered for the robot that gives it the ability to save 3 lives in one operation; by using chemical materials for bloating the life pads, the pads can be increased to more than 15 in number.”

“The robot is waterproof and it can land on the sea surface. When the robot faces an accident or in low battery situations it lands on sea, to not see more damage or sink.”

I, for one, think it sounds like a great use of drones. I just wonder if a) the price of it is going to be reasonable and b) if the US will try to tailor the Stuxnet virus to attack these guys as well…

This is what the future could look like, when a drone comes to the rescue:


Poor button placement sends drones crashing to the ground – could have been worse

In a recent article about the dangers of poor design of drone plane interfaces, published by Ars Technica, Sean Gallagher highlights how poor button placement has, at times, lead to unmanned aircraft plummeting out of the skies.

Gallagher cites one example from 2006 where a drone operator mean to deploy the aircraft’s landing gear, but instead accidentally pushed the button that switched off the drone’s engines. Result: a rather more vertical landing than hoped for and a completely wrecked $1,5 million drone.

Makes you wonder where on the interface they’ve put the buttons for launching weapons….

Boeing drone goes green

Boeing seem to be working on a new, environmentally friendly way to carry out espionage and potentially even assasinations of terrorists and the like.

The company’s Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft recently completed its first test flight using liquid hydrogen for fuel. The only biproduct of its engines was liquid water.

Phantom Eye climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet and reached a cruising speed of 62 knots.

President Obama’s drone ‘baseball card kill-list’ revealed

In a startling piece in the New York Times, journalists Jo Becker and Scott Shane have gained an insight into how the top brass at the White House pick out which suspected terrorists it will target for assassination using unmanned aircraft, also commonly referred to as drones.

The article describes how President Obama personally reads through the potential targets’ biographies before signing off on the orders. One official describes the bios as ‘the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war’.

The article is a stark reminder of the fact that Obama has signed off on more than three times as many drone assassinations during his first term as president than George Bush Jr. got around to in his entire two-term presidency.

Some critics of the new strategy describes it as a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counter terrorism, where you are hitting the insurgents and terrorists every time you find out where they are instead of working out how to prevent them becoming terrorists in the first place.

Drone helps out in Alaska

Un-manned aircraft are being used to a myriad of different things these days, but few of them could be described as pr winners. Wether they’re engaged in looking for illegal immigrants or missile runs on suspected terrorists, the drones are engaged in something that makes them seem ever more impersonal.

So it was interesting to see a drone in the news this week for something different when one of the unmanned planes was used to guide a fuel tanker through the frozen Bering Sea on its way to the city Nome in Alaska.

The camera-equipped drone was described as looking like a smoke detector with wings and legs. It wass sent out from the beach at Nome and flew over the treacherous ice and its images were beamed back to a tablet-type computer screen on shore.

By looking through the images, researchers on shore were able to get a large picture of the ice in and around Nome harbor in hopes of getting the tanker as close to shore as possible.

Iran want to build the same drone that got shot down?

Recently, reports emerged that Iran had downed a US RQ-170 Sentinel Drone.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the Iranians are now saying that they are in the final stages of extracting data from the drone. The Iranian government said that it planned to use the data to sue the US for infringing on its airspace.

Interestingly enough, the Iranians claimed that they are also planning to replicate the drone aircraft through a process of reverse engineering.

Now several things strike me in this context.

One is the fact that there might be a couple of serious faults with the design of the RQ-170.

One is, of course, tied to the that the Iranians were apparently able to hit it. The RQ-170 is built by Lockheed Martin and most experts agree that it is a stealth drone, built for reconnaissance. In other words, it’s a spy that isn’t supposed to show up on the enemy’s radar.

And it obviously did.

The second problem is the fact that the Iranians are apparently able to extract data from the downed drone. You’d expect that the data in question would be heavily encrypted. making it hard for them to decipher it. You would probably also expect the drone to be fitted with some sort of kill switch, that would try to erase the data, if the craft was damaged. This doesn’t seem to be the case.

Now, perhaps the data the drone in question wasn’t thought to be valuable enough to engage such a kill switch, or perhaps such a device isn’t fitted to the RQ-170. In not, then recent event seem to indicate that it probably be in the future.

All of this does, in some ways, make it less likely for the Iranians to actually be advancing in leaps and bounds as they claim to be. Because if they’re having so few difficulties getting the data and were able to actually hit the RQ-170, then why would they want to build more of them?

It would be like witnessing the first incarnation of the famous/infamous Mercedes A-class failing the security tests and then proceeding to build thousands of them.