Much buzz has been surrounding the topic of insect sized spy drones, and whether or not the U.S. government is already using these mini drones disguised as insects. The above picture is reportedly a CGI rendering, but protesters back to 2007 claim to have seen dragonfly spy drones while demonstrating against the wars in the middle east. Some have explained these sightings by pointing to unusually large and stunning dragonflies which are known to hover around the Washington D.C. area, but others are not convinced, according to a business insider article:
Even back in 2007, when Vanessa Alarcon was a college student attending an anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. she heard someone shout, “Oh my God, look at those.”
“I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?'” she told The Washington Post. “They looked like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects,” she continued.
A lawyer there at the time confirmed they looked like dragonflies, but that they “definitely weren’t insects”.
And he’s probably right. In 2006 Flight International reported that the CIA had been developing micro UAVs as far back as the 1970s and had a mock-up in its Langley headquarters since 2003.
Still, it seems a bit strange that the government would let something like this leak, simply to spy on an anti-war protesters, unless they wanted it leaked. Does our government subscribe to the Machiavellian principle that it is better to be feared than loved? The prospects of such technology in certain hands certainly elicits fear; clearly from this blog’s direction you can gather that I consider our government untrustworthy, and therefore irresponsible handlers of this technology.
It has been well documented that the domestic surveillance state has been expanding, and this fits that paradigm [Click here to view an interview with whistle-blower Bill Binney, former NSA employee]. But other uses for these insect spy drones are more sinister. With a tiny needle which would feel like the bite of a mosquito, DNA could be collected, RFID chips could be implanted, or toxins could be administered. Combat could become insect swarms on enemies–unfortunately any of us could be an enemy of the state in this day and age.
Other interesting applications for these tiny spy drones include collecting DNA information in order to develop a genetically unique disease which will kill the target. The same business insider article brought up the possibility of tailoring diseases to mirror natural occurrences, but in reality are designed specifically to kill the target whose DNA has been collected by an insect drone, and decoded. The example the article used was if an African leader who uses child soldiers was to be targeted.
…tablets are delivered to a group that dissolves them and injects the liquid into a handful of micro-drones. The team releases the drones and infects the people in the African leader’s circle of advisors or family.
The infected come down with flu like symptoms, coughs and sneezes that release billions of harmless virus particles — but when they bring their symptoms in the vicinity of the African leader — the particles change.
Once the virus particles are exposed to that very specific DNA sequence, a secondary function within their design unlocks. In the Atlantic piece the target is the U.S. president via sneezing Harvard students, but the effect would be the same. In that case it was a “fast-acting neuro-destructive disease that produced memory loss and, eventually, death.”
Same for the African leader, though the symptoms could be tailored an infinite number of ways. Designed to reflect a uniquely local affliction like Dengue Fever, or to appear like symptoms of a genetic condition.
The Atlantic piece referred to offered another fictional example of the uses of mini-drones, however their example involved a future president as the target. Obviously this technology could be used for good or evil, like so many other things. But with the exponential speed at which technology has been recently advancing, this though experiment is worth the time to perform.
This is a good thing to have on our radar whether or not it ends up being used for sinister purposes. Private groups have admitted to attempting to design these types of drones, but the government won’t comment. There are reports of a United States Department of Defense initiative to develop hybrid drone insects. These insects would be injected with nano-technology while developing as larva, and radio controlled in adulthood. The details or existence of this program are unclear, but the project is said to be run by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) and called “Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems”.
Still many are skeptical that any technology has yet been developed to convert drones to insect size. According to an article on Snopes.com, this would be a tough feat:
The technical challenges of creating robotic insects are daunting, and most experts doubt that models exist yet. “If you find something let me know” said Gary Anderson of the Defense Department’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office.
But still the same article says that a 3cm wing span robotic micro air vehicle (MAV) was displayed at a robotics conference in 2007, and that the U.S. Navy displayed bumble bee size drones through a “simulated video” in 2008. This technology is certainly being researched by the government and private sector, although it remains unclear whether they are actually being manufactured of used yet. Until someone swats one and looks at it under a micro-scope, we’ll just have to stay vigilant to make sure technology is not used illegally by our government.