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The buzz about insect-sized drones

'Micro-drones' are no longer the stuff of science fiction

Jan. 6, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By KEVIN COLEMAN   |   Comments
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Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape. (File)

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Spending time with technology professionals provides the opportunity to pick their brains about what’s coming in the world of technology-based espionage. I’ve had a few informal meetings lately, and one hot topic has many security practitioners very concerned: the emergence of insect-sized reconnaissance drones.

Are these micro-spies really that far off? Are they for imaging or will they conduct digital intercepts? These are just two of the many interesting questions that were bantered about.

After looking into this topic, here is what I found the current state and future projections to be: Within the next few years, micro-sized spy drones will not only become a reality, but they will be much more commonplace than you might think. The instrumentation package will include much more than just imaging capabilities! Digital communications monitoring, moisture sensing, and heat sensing will also be integral capabilities, as well as other monitoring of conditions.

Perhaps the most interesting discussion was a technology that was literally out of the 2003 espionage thriller “The Recruit.” In that movie James Clayton, played by Colin Farrell, places a tracking/listening bug (wireless of course) that looks like a piece of clear plastic tape with a dot on it under the coat lapel of Layla Moore, played by Bridget Moynahan. This near-range device would communicate over a publically available wireless network or with a microdrone. The drone would relay the audio, video or other remote sensing data to a remote ground station via an encrypted Internet connection.

Microdrones are destined to become an economical remote sensing tool and a surveillance/monitoring platform that will be used by business, government, law enforcement, military and intelligence communities around the world. This will undoubtedly cause huge privacy concerns and fears of an emerging surveillance society. Some of the more extreme backlash will undoubtedly include cyber attacks on the command control, communications and onboard computers that are part of the drone programs. This will be another area to closely monitor.

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