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The Woes of an American Drone Operator

Submitted by Roanman on Tue, 12/18/2012 - 06:41


From Spiegel Online International.

As always click on the photo below for the entire story along with a short photo essay.

Way super highly double recommended ... and then some.


The Woes of an American Drone Operator

A soldier sets out to graduate at the top of his class. He succeeds, and he becomes a drone pilot working with a special unit of the United States Air Force in New Mexico. He kills dozens of people. But then, one day, he realizes that he can't do it anymore.

For more than five years, Brandon Bryant worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn't be opened. Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world.

The container is filled with the humming of computers. It's the brain of a drone, known as a cockpit in Air Force parlance. But the pilots in the container aren't flying through the air. They're just sitting at the controls.

Bryant was one of them, and he remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

"These moments are like in slow motion," he says today. Images taken with an infrared camera attached to the drone appeared on his monitor, transmitted by satellite, with a two-to-five-second time delay.

With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.


Nice chairs.


What's new from the Military Industrial Complex?

Submitted by Roanman on Thu, 11/15/2012 - 06:52


Since we were already on the subject.

Here's a bit of the latest and greatest from the Military Industrial Complex.

Up first we have Boston Dynamic's LS3 also known as BigDog.

Thanks to our friend Evan for this one.



Next up we have Time Magazine's "Most Awsome Invention of 2010" the Raytheon XOS2 Exoskeleton.



Sleep well Sheeple.


Whoa! Was that a mosquito or a drone?

Submitted by Roanman on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 20:30


From Clean Technica and Rob Aid.

A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University is helping to develop a micro aerial vehicle (MAV for short) that will be no bigger than a bug.



So, What Good is a Micro Aerial Vehicle?

An MAV would be used for military reconnaissance operations in urban areas, where densely packed buildings and unpredictable winds create unique challenges for a small flying device – no surprise here, since the Hopkins research is partly funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.


Secret of the Hopkins MAV

Student researchers Tras Lin and Lingxiao Zheng are spearheading the Johns Hopkins contribution to MAV research, using high-speed video cameras to analyze the way a butterfly’s body moves in flight. The advanced cameras enabled the researchers to separate one-fifth of a second of movement into 600 frames. According to Lin, the breakdown shows that the insect’s body in flight shares some characteristics with the body movements of figure skaters, who use their arm position to modify their speed while spinning.

According to Phil Sneiderman of Johns Hopkins, the key discovery so far has been to recognize that changes in the distribution of the insect’s body mass play an important role in its ability to perform intricate maneuvers while flapping its wings. Previous research into flight dynamics had overlooked this area of study and focused primarily on wing movements.



Look Out! More MAV’s on the Way

If something rings a bell about this project, you may recall that last year DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, released photos of the Hummingbird, a tiny, ultra lightweight remote-controlled flying vehicle designed to resemble an actual hummingbird. The Hummingbird was designed specifically to let troops in urban combat to get a look around corners and inside buildings.



Sometimes a map is all you need

Submitted by Roanman on Mon, 06/18/2012 - 19:58


The following is from via our friends at Whiteout Press.

As always click on the map for the entire piece.



Revealed: 64 Drone Bases on American Soil

Public Intelligence, a non-profit that advocates for free access to information, released a map of military UAV activities in the United States on Tuesday. Assembled from military sources — especially this little-known June 2011 Air Force presentation (.pdf) – it is arguably the most comprehensive map so far of the spread of the Pentagon’s unmanned fleet. What exact missions are performed at those locations, however, is not clear. Some bases might be used as remote cockpits to control the robotic aircraft overseas, some for drone pilot training. Others may also serve as imagery analysis depots.

The medium-size Shadow is used in 22 bases, the smaller Raven in 20 and the miniature Wasp in 11. California and Texas lead the pack, with 10 and six sites, respectively, and there are also 22 planned locations for future bases. ”It is very likely that there are more domestic drone activities not included in the map, but it is designed to provide an approximate overview of the widespread nature of Department of Defense activities throughout the US,” Michael Haynes from Public Intelligence tells Danger Room.

The possibility of military drones (as well as those controlled by police departments and universities) flying over American skies have raised concerns among privacy activists. As the American Civil Liberties Union explained in its December 2011 report, the machines potentially could be used to spy on American citizens. The drones’ presence in our skies “threatens to eradicate existing practical limits on aerial monitoring and allow for pervasive surveillance, police fishing expeditions, and abusive use of these tools in a way that could eventually eliminate the privacy Americans have traditionally enjoyed in their movements and activities.”

As Danger Room reported last month, even military drones, which are prohibited from spying on Americans, may “accidentally” conduct such surveillance — and keep the data for months afterwards while they figure out what to do with it. The material they collect without a warrant, as scholar Steven Aftergood revealed, could then be used to open an investigation.

The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the U.S. military from operating on American soil, and there’s no evidence that drones have violated it so far.



So far being the operative phrase.


Sometimes a chart ... and a quote are all you need

Submitted by Roanman on Wed, 05/30/2012 - 07:52


We've done some variations on the following issue a number of times now.

We believe it to be worth repeating.







To quote President Dwight D. Eisenhower one more time.




To quote Frank Barone

Submitted by Roanman on Wed, 03/31/2010 - 06:32



The text below links to an interactive animation within an outstanding Mother Jones report having to do with U.S. military expansion throughout the world from 1950 until the almost present.

Super duper double way high recommended ... Seriously, it only takes about 45 seconds.  Do it now! .......... Don't make me come over there!


According to the Pentagon's 2008 "Base Structure Report," its annual unclassified inventory of the real estate it owns or leases around the world, the United States maintains 761 active military "sites" in foreign countries.

The 2008 total is down from 823 in the Pentagon's 2007 report, but the 2007 number was up from 766 in 2006.

The current total is, however, substantially less than the Cold War peak of 1,014 in 1967.

The US Military has "sites" in 63 countries. Brand new military bases have been built since September 11, 2001 in seven countries.

There are only 192 countries in the United Nations.

Official military reports understate the actual size of the US footprint.

The official figures omit espionage bases, those located in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and miscellaneous facilities in places considered too sensitive to discuss or which the Pentagon chooses to exclude.

We garrison the globe in ways that really are -- not to put too fine a point on it -- unprecedented, and yet, if you happen to live in the United States, you basically wouldn't know it; or, thought about another way, you wouldn't have to know it.


 Below is a similar treatment from United for Peace and Justice, that was first published in 2005.

Not as good as the above Mother Jones piece, but worthwhile.



I have to admit it, I had no idea this thing had grown so big.

And I'm the guy supposedly paying attention.


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