By Debbie Burke
The day is lovely and you’re out for a walk in the fresh air and sunshine. Homes, stores, buildings, and traffic intersections are far away and so are security cams. You think you’re by yourself (except for the smartphone in your pocket that constantly broadcasts your location).
There, up in the blue sky, you spot a dove circling above you as it floats and dips on wind currents.
Except…it might not be a bird.
Surveillance drones masquerading as birds have been around for almost a decade (that we know of!).
In China, the Northwestern Polytechnical University Dove Program has flown to new heights. Weighing in at seven ounces, with a wing span of 20 inches, the Dove drone is indistinguishable in size from a real bird. It is also nearly silent and virtually undetectable, even by radar.
According to a 2018 article in Business Insider:
“Each of the drones has a built-in high-definition camera, a GPS antenna, a flight control system and data link with satellite communication capability.”
The “birds” are lifelike enough to fool real birds. The same article reports:
“…these robotic birds can go undetected in the presence of other animals, with some birds even flying alongside them.”
China is using Dove drones for domestic surveillance and law enforcement.
According to the UK publication AI Daily:
“The AI [artificial intelligence] in the robotic bird allows it to fly completely unaided, whilst taking measurements allowing it to compensate for the wind and to avoid other objects. If the camera detects something, the bird can simultaneously interpret this data and it will lock onto anything it perceives to be ‘suspicious’.”
AI Daily goes on to say:
“Cameras will no longer just record video, they will autonomously analyse and interpret the footage live…
After a sufficient amount of this data has been inputted, [web platform] Ella’s AI will be able to autonomously detect criminal activity and will be designed to subsequently alert the police.”
In other words, a fake bird may soon make decisions whether or not someone is arrested for an alleged crime.
TKZers: What plot can you conjure where a “bird” is watching?
Can you think of ways to trick such surveillance? (asking for a friend)