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How Did “Drone” Become Such A Dirty Word?

In 2013, the word “drone” has referred to a number of gadgets: on one end of the drone spectrum, there’s a $300 consumer quadcopter that you can buy at a Toys R’ Us that is a “drone”. On the other, you have a $4 million piece of advanced government hardware that can do everything from monitor forest fires in order to assist with their containment to the deployment of surgical CIA-led missile strikes.
Both of them make headlines, but for different reasons. And it’s causing headaches for advocates and researchers who build these devices. The world of drones is suffering from an image problem.

How Did “Drone” Become Such A Dirty Word?

In 2013, the word “drone” has referred to a number of gadgets: on one end of the drone spectrum, there’s a $300 consumer quadcopter that you can buy at a Toys R’ Us that is a “drone”. On the other, you have a $4 million piece of advanced government hardware that can do everything from monitor forest fires in order to assist with their containment to the deployment of surgical CIA-led missile strikes.

Both of them make headlines, but for different reasons. And it’s causing headaches for advocates and researchers who build these devices. The world of drones is suffering from an image problem.

NASA engineer Jerry Budd has an idea so audacious that it might just work—he wants to use unmanned, autonomous gliders to send small, low-cost satellites into orbit.

The Towed Glider Air-Launch is an experimental project (still awaiting government approval) that would fire air-launching rocket boosters from a drone glider. In Budd’s modest words, the proposal offers “affordable, flexible access to space.” A glider would be towed into high altitudes by military transport aircraft on planned flights and would be released by the plane—the glider would then fire a rocket booster (with a satellite enclosed) into orbit. Afterward, pilots located in remote NASA facilities safely guide the glider home.

The space gliders would be used to launch cubesats into orbit. Cubesats are small, low-cost satellites that weigh under 200 pounds and can be built and sent into orbit for low cost. Right now, it costs about $50,000 to build a cubesat and $100,000 to put one in orbit. Budd’s proposal would sharply reduce the cost of sending cubesats into space by allowing specialized drones to handle much of the hard work. Instead of sending cubesats into orbit on Russian rockets, NASA could build a new revenue stream by shipping these small satellites into orbit for other entities—effectively meaning the agency would provide space logistics services.

There are two ways to explain why Bigfoot can’t be found. There’s the conventional view—that Bigfoot doesn’t exist—and then there’s what we might call the Donald Rumsfeld view: that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. In this view, we haven’t found Bigfoot because we haven’t looked hard enough. Specifically, we haven’t looked with drones.

There are two ways to explain why Bigfoot can’t be found. There’s the conventional view—that Bigfoot doesn’t exist—and then there’s what we might call the Donald Rumsfeld view: that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. In this view, we haven’t found Bigfoot because we haven’t looked hard enough. Specifically, we haven’t looked with drones.

Daily Fast Feed Roundup
Hello Tumblr! Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know today: 
Zynga has filed a trademark infringement claim against the creators of Bang With Friends for using “With Friends" in its name. 
The FAA has approved commercial drone flights in U.S. airspace.
Pro-Assad Syrian hackers compromised the social media and email accounts of a number White House employees.
Researchers in Texas successfully hacked into the navigation system of a yacht that was cruising in the Mediterranean. 
A Hong Kong man claims that his Galaxy S4 burnt down his apartment.
A court has ruled that authorities no longer need a warrant to track cellphone location data.
Swiss scientists have created the perfect tech storm, a 3-D-printed, self-assembling drone swarm. 
Have a great day!
—M. Cecelia Bittner and Jessica Hullinger

Daily Fast Feed Roundup

Hello Tumblr! Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know today: 

Have a great day!

M. Cecelia Bittner and Jessica Hullinger

The government is in the process of liberalizing the rules concerning the commercial use of drones because they are so useful in police work, real estate, the movie industry, and other fields. It will probably take one of these drones smacking into an airliner or photographing Angela Jolie in the nude before there is a reaction.

Francis Fukuyama, in my new interview with him in Fast Company. (via journalofajournalist)

(via journalofajournalist)