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Privacy Bug Government Politics Your Rights Online

Dragonfly-Sized Insect Spies Spotted, Denied 433

Posted by kdawson
from the shutter-bugs dept.
SRA8 sends in a Washington Post piece about work at various academic, government, and military labs on insect-sized flying spies. A number of people reported what appeared to be flying mechanical insects, larger than dragonflies, over an antiwar rally in Washington DC last month. The reporter got mostly no-comments from the agencies he called trying to pin down what it was they saw. Only the FBI said through a spokesman: "We don't have anything like that." The article describes work on insect cyborgs as well as purely mechanical flying spies, but quotes vice admiral Joe Dyer, former commander of the Naval Air Systems Command now at iRobot in Burlington, Mass., as follows: "I'll be seriously dead before that program deploys." The article also mentions an International Symposium on Flying Insects and Robots, held in Switzerland in August, at which Japanese researchers demonstrated radio-controlled fliers with four-inch wingspans that resemble hawk moths.
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Dragonfly-Sized Insect Spies Spotted, Denied

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  • by madhatter256 (443326) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:20AM (#20938809)
    If such a thing exist, which i doubt it does, then why would they use it on protesters? If they have developed this type of technology, then I'm sure they'd deploy them in high priority areas like in the Middle East, China, etc..

  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:22AM (#20938835) Homepage Journal
    Testing. Government agencies and military often test their new equipment in more 'predictable' scenarios such as protests. If it were proven technology, it would already be deployed in those high-priority areas.
  • Re:Nothing to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by archeopterix (594938) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:23AM (#20938847) Journal
    Well, it is actually, literally, nothing to see - robotlike insects flying near a big crowd and nobody took any pics?
  • Grain of NaCl (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Choad Namath (907723) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:24AM (#20938853)
    I would take these supposed sightings with a huge grain of salt. If you're expecting to be watched, then you just might see something "watching" you. Sometimes a dragonfly is just a dragonfly.
  • Re:YRO? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rumith (983060) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:24AM (#20938859)

    Why is this Your Rights Online? It involves neither rights nor online.
  • by mdm-adph (1030332) <[mdmadph] [at] [gmail.com]> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:27AM (#20938881) Homepage
    Well, why create a "No-fly List" for airline flights if terrorists, such as the 9/11 hijackers, used fake names and ID's?

    I mean, it's not like a country would ever use technology such as this to control its own populace... right?

    That'd be just... silly, right?

  • by faloi (738831) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:28AM (#20938887)
    And a waste of resources. Why send highly advanced craft out to watch people when TV cameras are everywhere, and half the protesters are probably capturing video to put on You-Tube later? It's not for testing, the risks of one getting caught or filmed is too great. It's hard to deny something when there's hard, physical evidence being shown.
  • Re:Nothing to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93,000 (150453) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:29AM (#20938897)
    Very true. It's not like years ago. These days I'd imagine that at least 60% of any group, anywhere at any time, has some type of camera on their person (cell, etc.). There really is no more 'too bad nobody had a camera'.
  • by m0llusk (789903) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:35AM (#20938973) Journal
    It seems there is no video or pictures to share of this, so there is a link to a large video of a demo of some other small flyer that requires a custom player download. This is a good example of modern gotcha journalism where being anxious for clicks and page views and movie downloads to drive their advertising model causes lots of incomplete, poorly edited, or barely relevant material to be included. Using video instead of text is particularly important since that offers a way around most ad blocking technologies.
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:39AM (#20939011)
    You nailed my thoughts exactly. I wouldn't deny that such a device could exist, but if it did, it would represent pretty huge (and presumably secret) advances in technology. The risk that one of these would be captured, or malfunction, has to be substantial. If these fell into the wrong hands, then the people who invented and deployed them would lose their advantage. All that being said, why would they be "wasted" on a group of protesters? There are MUCH more low-tech ways of surveillance, if that's their goal. It's only logical that the spooks would save these for places where traditional surveillance wasn't possible, or was impractical.

    My guess is that some unfortunate people got some of the brown acid...
  • by fnj (64210) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:41AM (#20939043)

    If such a thing exist, which i doubt it does, then why would they use it on protesters? If they have developed this type of technology, then I'm sure they'd deploy them in high priority areas like in the Middle East, China, etc..
    What makes you think they haven't, hmmm?
  • Re:Nothing to see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by monk.e.boy (1077985) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:48AM (#20939121) Homepage

    Oh yeah, cos phone cameras are, like, 2,000 times better resolution then my eyes.

    Honestly, in most photos taken on phones you can barely make out a face, let alone a dragon fly at 20 meters.


  • by Gregb05 (754217) <bakergo.gmail@com> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:50AM (#20939153) Journal
    From the 9/11 commission report [p102] standard policy was to hold luggage off the plane until people were confirmed to be boarding, or to search their luggage. There was not much keeping a hijacker from taking control of an airplane. At that point I'm sure they were more concerned about bombing than hijacking; typically hijackers make a few political demands, the plane lands somewhere and they get shot or arrested.

    I don't know if the 9/11 hijackers used fake IDs (I thought they just used student Visas and such), but I'm pretty sure it would have been irrelevant if they had done so, since it's not like they'd have been stopped from boarding the airplane.

    Regardless, take off the damn tinfoil hat, it makes you look stupid.
  • Re:Grain of NaCl (Score:2, Insightful)

    by s4m7 (519684) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:53AM (#20939203) Homepage

    Obviously Bush is "spying" on them you know.

    He hasn't admitted authorizing spying on U.S. Citizens [cnn.com] in the past or anything. Those anti-war people are clearly paying attention to those pesky "facts" again.

    If you start calling another crowd "anti-war", doesn't that mean you're "pro-war"? What kind of babbling idiot is pro-war?

  • Occam's Razor... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goldenhawk (242867) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:14AM (#20939461) Homepage
    Oh, please, people.

    Think rationally for a minute. What benefit can a supposed micro-UAV provide in this kind of gathering? Why on earth would the US Government "out" itself in a situation like this? Any halfway intelligent spy agency (as I believe ours ARE, regardless of any opinions about their oversight) would hold technology like this for really really really important, and otherwise impossible to penetrate, situations, and especially situations where the technology would not be seen (like nighttime).

    Think about it. Big gathering. Public place. Plenty of surrounding buildings. No limits on attendance. Hundreds of people waving around cell phone cameras. Recording devices allowed in the area. If you want pictures of who's there, just pretend you're a protester really happy about the size of the crowd, and wander around like an idiot with your (looks like a) $50 CVS disposable video camera, blatantly taking pictures of everything and everyone in sight. You'll get much closer, more stable, clearer pictures, and nobody is the wiser. Why try to hide?

    This doesn't pass the basic sniff test. Not many conspiracy theories do, when you really think about them rationally.

    I'm a geocacher, and I like to hunt "urban micro" caches - tiny containers hidden in highly-trafficked areas. Hunting for them is not unlike being a spy, I think, and I've found that trying to sneak is very ineffective. If you look like everyone else, and act like everyone else, you can hide your actions a LOT better than if you LOOK like you're trying to hide. Same thing here: it makes a lot more sense to blend in, than try some super-fancy new technology which WILL be noticed.

    Incidentally, I am NOT denying these things might exist. But I am pretty certain that if they are being used, it's in much more carefully and wisely chosen scenarios.
  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:37AM (#20939825) Homepage Journal
    "Umm... the 9/11 hijackers didn't use fake IDs."

    Damn, and I used up all my mods points... else you would get modded up. Nobody seems to know or care that the 9/11 hijackers all were here legally, all had valid ID, all had valid tickets, none were carrying prohibited items. Nobody seems to care that we're reducing the civil rights of Americans in response to 9/11, when 9/11 ITSELF was proof that the very things we're doing would not have stopped the attacks. It's like being afraid of strangers because you keep getting mugged at family reunions. Nonsensical.

  • by MauriceV (455290) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:58AM (#20940149)
    The CIA's museum entry is almost certainly fake. That thing looks way too realistic and it's thirty years in the past. Seems like what's coming out of the labs today still has a way to go to get to what "we" were at then. That makes no sense. That's why I think it's fake and it somehow just got into the museum and is being purported to have been real.
  • Re:Nothing to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:00AM (#20940167) Homepage Journal
    Well considering that most people can not tell the difference between two cars, two airplanes, or two snakes I would say that this is a none story.
    One nut case in a group of protesters that are sure that.
    1. Each and every one of them is SO important to the peace movement that there is a whole team dedicated to watching there every move.
    2. The government is just one step away from throwing them into a re eduction camp.
    3. That the government not only has the technology to build robot bug but also cars that get 300 MPG an run on water.

    Finally why would they use them over of all things an anti-war protest?
    I mean if you want to spy on them you send in agents with small cameras and MK1 eyeballs and ears. It would be cheaper and far more effective.
    If you wanted to test them then a better test would be over a military base or exercise. You would be trying to defeat trained observers then.
    If you wanted to test them with untrained observers in the wild then just about any sporting event right down to a high school football game would do and again be less likely to end up in the Washington Post. Test it in Iowa or any of the other "fly over" states that the Post doesn't know exists.

    So it comes down to these two options.
    a. The government of the US can create almost magical technology and then is stupid enough to use it in this manner.
    b. Someone at a anti-war protest thinks they see robotic spy bug and tells other like minded people that they saw a spy bug who are then sure they saw a spy bug......

  • Re:Cute, but no.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by acb (2797) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:01AM (#20940187) Homepage
    Though, somehow, the bodies and nervous systems of dragonflies manage to cope. Which says that it can be done, even if engineers haven't figured out how to do it yet.
  • Power source (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Entropius (188861) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @10:53AM (#20941043)
    Actually, an autonomous device about this size capable of storing energy for quite a lot of flight time has already been demonstrated, without devoting much body mass to storage. In addition to possessing quick-tracking wide-angle optics, the device is agile enough in the air to capture objects determined to be a threat in flight.

    The device is, of course, a common dragonfly.
  • Re:Nothing to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Belial6 (794905) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @12:59PM (#20942753)
    "Gee I guess there is a shortage of crowds in California."

    No, they just figure that getting caught taking secret pictures of a hairy anti-war protester is going to be less damaging to their career than getting caught taking secret pictures of a leather boy in assless chaps at the annual gay pride parade.

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