If you’ve ever visited your local mall and have seen salesmen trying to sell those new little indoor remote-control Helicopters by flying them all around the mall, then you’ve already had a small taste of the sort of technology the Pentagon is seeking to develop as part of the U.S. spying arsenal.
According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon is investing heavily into technologies that offer both robotic, flying drones and even bionic insects that offer intelligence agencies and security services with the ability to hear and see in spaces where a human may not have the ability to access.
Much of the push for these devices likely stems from the fact that the nanotechnology industry is advancing by leaps and bounds, such as the article in Science Daily revealing the development of implantable metamaterials that could be used in medical applications to implant devices that could transmit, “medical information from within the human body.”
It is little surprise that the Pentagon wants to stretch such technology into military and intelligence applications.
Combining shrinking electronics with the shrinking size of unmanned aircraft (UAV's), the goal of the programs the Pentagon is funding is to develop remotely controlled flying objects that simulate normal-looking birds or insects.
It also appears that the Pentagon is continuing along the same vein as the infamous Acoustic Kitty project the CIA attempted in 1967. The Pentagon is investing into applications where miniature surveillance equipment can be implanted into living insects, not only allowing for the ability to see and hear wherever the insect travels, but also to actually control the insect itself.
According to the AP, one company contracted by the Pentagon was AeroVironment out of California. The mission was to develop any flying object that could be remotely controlled, fit inside a pocket, and could be used for "surveillance and reconnaissance." The project was worth $4 million dollars of tax-payer money, and took about five years to complete.
That $4 million purchased the first remote-controlled fake flying hummingbird that could house surveillance equipment.
It actually reminds me of a spy-toy you might find at Wal-Mart for your kids for about $59.99.
Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. The truth is that it has some pretty advanced maneuvering skills - it can fly in just about any direction, and it can also rotate on the vertical axis. It can even land and perch outside any window and collect video intelligence by unsuspecting residents.
Other projects funded by this branch of Pentagon exploration include a maple leaf seed helicopter at only 0.07 ounces, with embedded imaging sensors, developed by Lockheed Martin.
According to the AP news report, DARPA - the somewhat wacky Pentagon branch that explores the military application of such new technologies - doesn't want to stop at simulating birds and insects. The Agency hopes to figure out a way to implant insects with both surveillance equipment, and with electronics that will essentially use electrical impulses to stimulate body parts - like legs and wings.
I can't imagine animal rights activists will be pleased.
However, the ethics of using live animals aside, the applications of creating and using miniature devices that simulate wildlife are astounding.
-> Swarms of robot insects could gather lots of environmental data over a very wide area, such as a toxic spill or a nuclear blast.
-> Fake rodents or insects could infiltrate the homes of foreign intelligence targets, literally "bugging" (pun intended) the home without the need for humans to enter.
-> Fake birds could fly in and out of enemy areas without notice, appearing no different than any other bird flying through the area.
The application of such technology could completely revolutionize warfare and the art of intelligence gathering. Unfortunately, it will also fuel greater suspicion and paranoia regarding government domestic spying efforts. Let's just hope none of these sorts of devices unexpectedly turn up inside any U.S. home.