Dec 212018
 

It is quite astonishing just how much stupidity appears during an incident such as the drone “attacks” on Gatwick airport. Here is the answer to just a few of them …

Shoot It Down

Any scheme to shoot down a drone will have to bear in mind that this drone at least is flying on, buzzing around until it gets noticed, and then going away again. Any sharpshooters are going to have trouble because it will be a fair distance away – after all the drone operators are hardly going to buzz the airport with sharpshooters just a few meters away.

And bullets go places; Gatwick is mostly surrounded by dwellings so the risk is high of causing an injury or a fatality (the probability may be low, but the impact is severe so any risk analyst is likely to veto any gun fans).

If they do get the go ahead, sharpshooters are not going to spray and pray but are going to wait until they have a clear shot they are confident of making before pulling the trigger. This will of course reduce the risk considerably, but also be why the drones have not yet been shot down.

It’s A Conspiracy; There’s No Drone

This one is often tied to the next subject. But really?

Unless this disruption goes on for days or weeks, this is all just a flash in the pan. Most of us who do not have a direct connection to Gatwick (such as being there) will forget this as soon as it is over and something else captures our attention in the news.

At best it would serve as a temporary distraction – which is possible – but in no way would work on a permanent basis.

A few conspiracy nuts have suggested this might be May’s way of distracting from the problems Brexit (and she) is currently enduring; it just wouldn’t work for that because the Brexit problems are ongoing, and won’t disappear if we forget about it for a day or two.

Why Aren’t There Photographs of The Drone?

Such comments come from those who have never tried photographing anything like this or the equivalent (probably something like bird photography).

The drones are only going to be flying for a relatively short amount of time, and are going to be very distant from any cameras. No smartphone is likely to capture anything other than a black dot (smartphone cameras typically have wide-angle lenses).

DSLR shooters are likely to have all their equipment packed, and those that don’t are quite unlikely to have the right lens to hand; in fact most won’t own the right kind of lens (I’d choose an 800mm which would be many thousands).

Looking at the likely (as described) behaviour of the drones, the closest match to photographic “genres” is as mentioned bird photography (there’s a reason why the picture in this posting isn’t a flying bird). This is hard; you’ll be stuck in a blind for hours waiting for just the right moment with an enormous lens that weighs as much as a TV.

In addition I suspect that people just don’t appreciate just how big airports are – it would take many hours just to walk around the perimeter.

The
Swan

It’s Obviously ${X}

Whilst it may be fun to speculate on what motivates the drones operators – “having a laugh”, protesting at the presence of the airport, or full-on terrorists.

But being realistic for a moment, there is no way we will know what the motivations were until the culprit(s) are identified and caught.

So it’s not obvious that it’s this, that, or the other.

Dec 282016
 

There is an interesting video from 33c3 dealing with drone killings :-

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As an aside, one of the thing that makes the Chaos Computer Club congress more interesting than many security conferences is the attention given to more “political” issues.

Drones offer the enticing possibility of tackling terrorist groups without putting people at risk, but the reality is somewhat different.

  1. Drone killings are in effect an act of war against the citizen(s) of a foreign country; very often where war has not been declared. To put it into perspective what if the UK operated drones in the 1970s and targeted US citizens who were helping to fund the IRA? And sometimes these actions resulted in “regrettable collateral damage”?
  2. Why is it not possible to provide information on targets to the law enforcement officials in the country where the target is living? It is possible that the law enforcement officials are compromised in some way of course (for example the US authorities were often against dealing with IRA terrorism), but not in all cases.
  3. Who decides that a target is so evil that they deserve death from the sky? The obvious solution here is a higher court order rather than an arbitrary decision by the military, although secret court orders are almost as bad as arbitrary military decisions. At the very least, such court orders must be made public after the death of the target.
  4. Just how reliable are drone killings anyway? How many times have we heard of “collateral damage” (the sanitised version of “Ooops! We killed the wrong people.”)? And how many times have we not heard of collateral damage? Many videos of drone killings show vehicles being targeted which leads to the most obvious problem – you do not know that the target is within the vehicle and you do not know that he or she is alone in the vehicle.
  5. “Spinning” the effectiveness of drone killings by counting all “military aged males” as militants unless they can be demonstrated to be innocent (i.e. guilty until proven innocent) is about as despicable as it gets. You cannot claim to be in the right if you resort to such claims.

It is all too easy to claim that we’re all under threat from terrorism and that anything that might reduce that threat is justified. But criminal activity by governments is never justified.

Sep 082015
 

The big story of the day is the news that a UK drone strike took out an ISIS terrorist in Syria; one who used to be a UK citizen. After all, ISIS claims to be a nation state and so their "fighters" (actually terrorists) could be said to have given up their previous citizenship.

Arguing about whether it was justified is completely pointless without access to all of the relevant information which we won't get. It would be a very good idea for someone sensible (i.e. not a sleezy politician) outside of the intelligence community to review that secret information and to be the one authorising such activities.

But is a drone strike self-defence? It may well be under military terminology or even under international law.

In terms of ordinary understanding of self-defence, it is not – in terms of someone assaulting you, it is self-defence to break someone's arm as they are striking you; it is not self-defence to break their arm because they have promised to assault you tomorrow.As ordinary people understand the term, a drone strike is not self-defence.

It might be somewhat less contraversial to call a spade a spade and term this attack a "pre-emptive defence againt an imminent mass terrorist act" (or whatever phrase would fit the facts). On the face of it, using a drone strike to kill two terrorists only who are about to launch a terrorist attack, is the least-worst action. 

That does not justify so-called "collateral damage" (in honest spade terms, that would be the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians), and anyone who authorises drone strikes that results in murder should be prosecuted.

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