RNZ National – Tech Tuesday with Wallace – Drones

RNZ National – Tech Tuesday with Wallace – Drones


Wallace (00:00): Time now for Tech Tuesday with owner and managing director of Vertech IT Services. [Inaudible 00:00:06] national afternoons, every second Tuesday to talk about what's happening in the world of technology. Today, we're all about drones, Daniel. Hello. Nice to have you on.

Daniel Watson (00:16): Hey, what else?

Wallace (00:18): Well, okay. Tell us about drones. I mean, if there isn't a question or topic, I thought perhaps drones will be worth a discussion. There's lots of discussion about this issue these days.

Daniel Watson (00:28): Yeah. So it's... I mean, there's a lot of activity on the news with regards to drones. Most of it's right now happening over in the Ukraine, which is interesting for people because it's kind of the way warfare is moving... more and more autonomous systems. And there's also the aspect of how do we feel about drones being used our civilian or residential life. And there's a few issues which come up there.

Wallace (00:54): So shall we start with the military aspect first? Actually, I've got to tell you then. I had a very interesting discussion with a taxi driver some years ago and he was from Pakistan... he's from a village Pakistan and he said the drones that were operated by the US there wreaked absolute havoc in his area. And the whole community was just absolutely frightened of these drones. And it was a very big issue in Pakistan, he said, drone warfare.

Daniel Watson (01:26): Well, yeah. Okay. So ever since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military were leaning heavily upon drones because they can loiter at a high level. If they get shot down, there's no humans at risk there and they're relatively inexpensive assets that can rain stuff down from above. Those are quite expensive ones. But what we're seeing is that since... and this has been going on in the Ukraine since about 2014, with the invasion of Crimea, is that relatively cheap, inexpensive, low flying almost... what's the word, consumer grade models, have been used by militaries there to get accurate fixing on artillery missions and identifying movements in areas. And it's been evolving from there. Right now, you could probably go on YouTube and find half a dozen videos of essentially the Ukrainian militia using drones to drop grenades, directly onto trenches occupied by Russians.

It's kind of morbidly interesting from that respect, but it shows that in the past you could get away with camouflaging your positions using [inaudible 00:02:38] and that, and being relatively secure from high flying conventional airplane observations. Whereas now, that's not the case at all, but now actually the Ukrainians have actually bought out an anti-drone rifle, which is not a significant weapon. It's not net or a shotgun or anything like that. It's firing a very tightly focused beam of radio or electronic interference at the device to get it to disconnect from the operator. And then the drone drops out of the air. It's a whole... which is faster, the cheetah, or the gazelle? The cheetah is running for its next meal. The gazelle's running for its life. And the arms race continues.

Wallace (03:23): Yeah. And in terms of the residential use of them as well, or the community use of drones, perhaps, they're a bit of an issue as well in your neighborhood aren't they, if your neighbor has a drone, it goes too high. If it goes over your own territory or even actually the new drones that are coming out. So very, very small Dan. And in fact, I read somewhere from... in fact a scientist in MIT was saying that in the future... get this, drones will easily be able to be the size of a fly. I can really see societal ramifications if something like that happens.

Daniel Watson (04:13): Well... so there is concerns there already because those privacy concerns are happening now with just the size of what they are. And they are... I've seen models which are coming up about the size of a thumb. There are actually rules... this is what most people don't realize. So they go down to JB Hi-Fi and they buy one and they go out and they have a bit of a tour around, but there are specific rules and because they're aircraft, they do come under the civil aviation rules.

Wallace (04:40): Oh, they do?

Daniel Watson (04:41): Yeah. Yeah. And some real big rules like, don't fly within four kilometers of any aerodromes or airports or heliports for that matter. All right. That's a big one. You can get charged. They shouldn't be flown at night. And these are mostly about safety, because there have been instances of drones being hit by aircraft, which is really dangerous, because you have a plane in a built up area that gets hit by a drone then you've got several hundred kilograms of fuel landing in a built up area. And that's never a good mix. Additionally, they should be maintained with an eye contact... you have to be able to see your drone and if you can't see your drone, then you don't know where it's going and what it could be getting in trouble of.

And I think part of the problem with drones... yes, they've got cameras in them, people have VR headsets, but if you're flying around in a helicopter or in an airplane, you've got the same kind of rules that you do when you're at sea, is that you must keep a good lookout at all times, and it's a three dimensional space. Whereas if you've got a VR headset and you're looking through the eyes of the drone itself, which is looking in one direction, you have no peripheral vision. And then there's the whole thing about consent, is that you can't actually fly above somebody else's property, which their consent. And that includes going over somebody's boat or at the beach. There might be public spaces, but the rules are such that you are not to fly over people without their express permission, which is why you sometimes see those signs up at national parks and they're saying don't fly drones here.

Wallace (06:18): All very good to know. And I guess, looking at the positive as well, they look like fun to fly. I don't... I haven't flown one. What about you, Daniel? Have you flown a drone?

Daniel Watson (06:28): Well, I've done model aircraft and that kind of stuff. And yes, I do. I love it. The idea of putting a camera on it and then being able to hang around the place is pretty cool. There are some neat sports out there where people are doing first person drone racing. So if you put the VR goggles in, and then you get these really high speed drones and you race each other on a course, it's kind of like real life video games. There is a skill element and there's that feeling of being [inaudible 00:06:56] I think that's difficult.

Wallace (06:59): And it certainly changed photography if you watched your documentary, or whatever, on Netflix or whatever platform... some of the photography, the opening credit's pretty stunning as well, thanks to some drone capture. But segueing, perhaps, into things that fly, this really interested me and I've been wanting to talk about this for a while, because I have noticed this conspiracy theory, they call, "Birds aren't real". That's the sub discussion, Daniel, today. Tell us about this.

Daniel Watson (07:38): Okay. So it's kind of tangentially related to the drones. So, "Birds Aren't Real". The conspiracy is, that since the post WWII era, the United States government has been replacing birds with robotic drones to spy upon the population, and the birdsaren'treal.com. website tells that story of the genocide of birds and how the people must wake up about it. And I don't know if I really want to get too deep into this because it's a rabbit hole. It really is a rabbit hole, but it's worth having a squeeze at just to see how deep that goes in your spare time. Yeah. I don't know.

Wallace (08:18): If you give us a snapshot. Give us an example. Okay, so birds have been killed off since WWII. What insight that we can glean. What have you found?

Daniel Watson (08:27): Well, I mean, just look... just an example, think about all those birds on the power lines up there.

Wallace (08:32): Yup, seen them.

Daniel Watson (08:33): They're getting recharged.

Wallace (08:41): Oh God. Ooie, Daniel. I'm never going to look at birds the same way on the power line, but now that you say it, how do they do it?

Daniel Watson (08:56): I don't know. The technology must be incredible. Who knows what's going on? All that dark money going into DARPA. And the CIA... who knows what they could be up to? It's worth reading a bit about the whole Birds Aren't Real, the truth report, and that kind stuff. It's an eye opener. And I think there are some insights in there for all of us in terms of how we get our information.

Wallace (09:20): My goodness. Well, this is very apt because we're talking about just that, with a disinformation expert from Stanford later on, but let me ask you this, Daniel, do they really believe it?

Daniel Watson (09:34): I mean, I don't know. Who knows what's inside the minds of men?

Wallace (09:38): Yeah. So weird. It's so odd. Very good. Daniel Watson, as always, good to talk with you. Every second Tuesday, Tech here on afternoons, have a good day.

Daniel Watson (09:52): All right.