Drones – us and them

From Amfortas

Enough of boats and sail for a moment. I can see that James loves mucking around in boats and I like boats too but my particular passion is the air. I am an aviation man. 20 Years in the RAF and being around aircraft every day did not diminish my enthusiasm. I was not a pilot but did manage to rack up many hours in jet aircraft with a lot of experience in the beautiful, swift and agile Folland Gnat, along with fewer hours in Lightnings and the fabulous Buccaneer.

Now I have my computer and a good flight simulator. I will write about that another time. And I have You Tube, that window on everyone else’s world. And what a lot of aviation for the man in the street there is there too. So, let us look at one or two matters that affect us all and some that enable a growing few.

Technology has exploded in the aviation sphere. Largely developed in the west and largely for military use, the Chinese have had tremendous success in ‘stealing’ it and feeding it back to the western ‘man in the street’.

Whilst the militaries are busy building and deploying un-manned aircraft, the civilian is also creating a higher than previously imagined ‘hobby’. The days of rubber bands have long gone and modern model aircraft are equipped with jet engines and cameras ‘in the cockpit’.

Just where this will lead is anyone’s guess but already the days of the manned fighter aircraft are numbered and the current 5th generation machines on the drawing boards and production lines are likely to be the last ones we see.

The end of the manned fighter

Not content with military drones proliferating, ‘civil authorities’ are increasingly turning to sophisticated surveillance using very small multi-rotor helicopters. This is raising a number of issues, not the least of which is the ability of Police to ‘intrude’ on people going about their lawful occasions.

‘Civilian ‘authorities’ using drones.

But… the hobbist is where the fun action is. Every aircraft that comes into service is followed (and sometimes preceded) by a model, often produced in China, packed with high tech abilities.

The Breitling Air Force.

A swarm in Kentucky

Elegance too.

Of course, it doesn’t always go to plan. Explosions are not confined to advancement.

But for sheer pleasure and creativity we need only to see the huge amount of ‘artistic work’ coming from the use of FPV. This is where a camera is in the drone (winged or rotored) that puts the operator on the ground ‘up there’. The ‘pilot’s’ consciousness is displaced from his sitting position on the beach or hilltop and into the drone. One wonders what effect this will have on human cognitive ability in the long run.

FPV from the ‘Black Sheep’.

And In Oz.

This is a superb overview of the tech issues and societal issues, rather than just the flying enjoyment issues.

5 comments for “Drones – us and them

  1. November 30, 2012 at 16:02

    I suspect this is one people are going to bookmark and come back to on the weekend. Much viewing in here.

  2. November 30, 2012 at 16:34

    I suspect alCIAda will be getting some aircraft soon.
    I hope to get a couple of heavy bombers for Xmas.

  3. November 30, 2012 at 21:56

    Very interesting – “power multiplier” is a phrase to remember.

    I find these technologies both fascinating and scary.

  4. Amfortas
    December 1, 2012 at 01:04

    Indeed, much viewing. Some quite enjoyable for air-geeks but much of concern too.

    A point that interests me (from a 2nd profession standpoint) is the cognitive. It is always difficult to ‘go back’ to another time to second-guess what people might have imagined or how, but in this instance it is easy to say that even one hundred years ago it would have been impossible even to dream or conjour into waking imagination the sort of images that an FPV from a model aircraft provides, let alone consider the possibilities of targeting by sight a single person 5000 miles away.

    The FPV technology is made up from almost commonplace electronics today. And it ‘enables’ a person’s ‘mind’ to translocate. The sense of being ‘absorbed’ has always been static in terms of place. A person ‘in the moment’ has always been in the place where the moment is sensed. But here we have an ability to move the ‘mind’ to where the sense is sent. The operator of an FPV plane (military of hobby) may sit and move fingers in one place, but his attention and ‘experience’ is miles away. His ‘sensation’ of ‘freedom’ and exhilaration is at that position too, rather than being ‘generated’ in situ with the control box. It is in ‘real time’. Of course, it IS in situ, which means his consciousness is ondergoing an entirely novel transformation, not possible or even concievable a hundred years ago.

    There is almost a ‘Zen’ quality to the FPV activity.

    Some other more erudite and mentally disciplined commenter might take this and extend/analyase/ philosophise better than I.

  5. Amfortas
    December 1, 2012 at 01:43

    Dave is on to something. AlCIAda today, Gal Q’uaida tomorow. And the greeny terrorists/pirates too.


    SEA Shepherd has announced it will use military-style drones in its fight against Japanese whalers this summer

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