Micro-drones will "hide in plain sight"

"Lethal" and "unobtrusive" micro-drones are being developed by the Air force to mimic the behavior of bugs

Published February 19, 2013 9:53PM (EST)

     (Screenshot of micro-drone from Air Force simulation)
(Screenshot of micro-drone from Air Force simulation)

The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf Tuesday highlighted a "terrifying" prospect on the military technology horizon. The U.S. Air Force are building micro-drones that are "unobtrusive, pervasive, and lethal" weapons.

According to a feature in the National Geographic looking at the progression of drone technologies, "the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has challenged researchers to build drones that mimic the size and behavior of bugs and birds." The "bugbots" are supposed to "hide in plain sight." Micro-drones already developed by the Air Force have been built to "resemble winged, multi-legged bugs." In an Air Force simulation video shown to the National Geographic and posted below, "the drones swarm through alleys, crawl across windowsills, and perch on power lines. One of them sneaks up on a scowling man holding a gun and shoots him in the head."

Friedersdorf expresses concern that such technology could fall into the hands of America's enemies. "Sure, we have a technological advantage right now, but micro-drones sure seem like a disruptive technology that will eventually help rather than hinder attempts at asymmetric warfare," he wrote. Meanwhile, privacy and human rights advocates will likely have their worries piqued by the existence of "unobtrusive" and "pervasive" drones in U.S. hands alone.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Drones Micro-drones Privacy U.s. Air Force Video