Drones, birds, airports and a Venezuelan military procession

prototype-airliner-birdsTechnology is value neutral. In one person’s hands, new technology might save a life, but in another’s hands, it might be used for dark purposes.

Bird strikes on aircraft have the potential to create serious damage and can even bring down airplanes killing passengers. Currently airports use several strategies to keep birds away– discouraging bird nesting sites, applying chemical repellents and employing frightening tactics such as loud bangs. Caltech researchers have demonstrated how autonomous drones can safely “herd” birds away from airplane traffic.

By modelling flocks and experimenting with the effects of drones on flock behaviour, sophisticated drone software can gently shoo away flocks that might endanger human passengers. Researcher Soon-Jo Chung explains, “You have to be very careful in how you position your drone. If it’s too far away, it won’t move the flock. And if it gets too close, you risk scattering the flock and making it completely uncontrollable”.

On the dark side of technology deployment, an apparent assassination attempt occurred Saturday when a drone exploded in Venezuela near a military procession attended by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Technology is not inherently good or evil. The outcomes depend on the inventor.

Read more: Technology Review / TechCrunch / YouTube / CALTECH / ICWDM / CNN / The Atlantic / Reuters

Image: Birds surround an airliner near London Heathrow Airport. By NMOS332 / CC-BY-SA 2.0

This story is taken from the 10 August 2018 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.