DIY Drones: The Future is Now
Rapid cost reduction, or demonitization, has led to breathtaking innovation in the field of unmanned air vehicles (or UAVs), and UAV advocates see the FAA issuing personal and commercial licenses by 2015.
From 2011-2014, Daniel Honan was the Managing Editor at Big Think. Prior to Big Think, Daniel was Vice President of Production for Plum TV, a niche cable network he helped launch in 2002. The production team he oversaw won over two dozen Emmy awards. Daniel has created numerous shows and documentaries for television, and his film credits include Stealing the Fire, a documentary on the black market for nuclear weapons technology.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielHonan
What's the Big Idea?
"Hacking the physical" is how Dale Dougherty described the burgeoning DIY Drone movement to Peter Daimandis in his book Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. Dougherty, the founder and publisher of Make magazine, was describing the broad trend that has enabled individuals to construct homebrew versions of sophisticated machines at a fraction of the cost. In the case of unmanned air vehicles (or UAVs), 90 percent of the functionality of a military drone was accomplished for just 1 percent of the military's price.
This rapid cost reduction, or demonitization, has led to breathtaking innovation in this field, and UAV advocates see the FAA issuing personal and commercial licenses by 2015. Imagine what the aerospace industry will look like in three years if amateurs continue to beat the dinosaurs at their own game. The sky will be filled with UAVs, and people who had previously been cut off from the global transportation network will have access to vital supplies and materials. Two recent developments suggest this isn't just the stuff of fantasy.
What's the Latest Development?
Jerry LeMeiux, a retired colonel with an engineering PhD and "10,000 hours of aviation experience," has just launched the so-called Unmanned Vehicle University. While there are currently no FAA-issued requirements for personal or commercial drone operators, LeMeiux is getting a head start by offering a broad unmanned vehicle education.
Here is a sample of LeMeiux's course that is available on Youtube:
We also recently learned that Chinese researchers had developed a brain-operated drone for the purpose of aiding disabled people. If you watch the video below, it is not difficult to see other possible uses for this technology.
Watch the video here:
While some see the proliferation of drones leading to a dystopian future of swarms of cyborg insect drones, these recent developments show us an industry that is maturing, and which offers clear benefits to humanity. That does not mean that civilian and commercial drones will not need to be regulated in the future. Our already overcrowded airspace could get very crowded indeed. It's time for the FAA to get to work!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Follow Daniel Honan on Twitter @Daniel Honan
The world's getting hotter, and it's getting more volatile. We need to start thinking about how climate change encourages conflict.
- Climate change is usually discussed in terms of how it impacts the weather, but this fails to emphasize how climate change is a "threat multiplier."
- As a threat multiplier, climate change makes already dangerous social and political situations even worse.
- Not only do we have to work to minimize the impact of climate change on our environment, but we also have to deal with how it affects human issues today.
Human beings are great at responding to imminent and visible threats. Climate change, while dire, is almost entirely the opposite: it's slow, it's pervasive, it's vague, and it's invisible. Researchers and policymakers have been trying to package climate change in a way that conveys its severity. Usually, they do so by talking about its immediate effects: rising temperature, rising sea levels, and increasingly dangerous weather.
These things are bad, make no mistake about it. But the thing that makes climate change truly dire isn't that Cape Cod will be underwater next century, that polar bears will go extinct, or that we'll have to invent new categories for future hurricanes. It's the thousands of ancillary effects — the indirect pressure that climate change puts on every person on the planet.
How a drought in the Middle East contributed to extremism in Europe
(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Nigel Farage in front of a billboard that leverages the immigration crisis to support Brexit.
Because climate change is too big for the mind to grasp, we'll have to use a case study to talk about this. The Syrian civil war is a horrific tangle of senseless violence, but there are some primary causes we can point to. There is the longstanding conflicts between different religious sects in that country. Additionally, the Arab Spring swept Syria up in a wave of resistance against authoritarian leaders in the Middle East — unfortunately, Syrian protests were brutally squashed by Bashar Al-Assad. These, and many other factors, contributed to the start of the Syrian civil war.
One of these other factors was drought. In fact, the drought in that region — it started in 2006 — has been described as the "worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilization began in the Fertile Crescent many millennia ago." Because of this drought, many rural Syrians could no longer support themselves. Between 2006 and 2009, an estimated 1.5 million Syrians — many of them agricultural workers and farmers — moved into the country's major cities. With this sudden mixing of different social groups in a country where classes and religious sects were already at odds with one another, tensions rose, and the increased economic instability encouraged chaos. Again, the drought didn't cause the civil war — but it sure as hell helped it along.
The ensuing flood of refugees to Europe is already a well-known story. The immigration crisis was used as a talking point in the Brexit movement to encourage Britain to leave the EU. Authoritarian or extreme-right governments and political parties have sprung up in France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, and other European countries, all of which have capitalized on fears of the immigration crisis.
Why climate change is a "threat multiplier"
This is why both NATO and the Pentagon have labeled climate change as a "threat multiplier." On its own, climate change doesn't cause these issues — rather, it exacerbates underlying problems in societies around the world. Think of having a heated discussion inside a slowly heating-up car.
Climate change is often discussed in terms of its domino effect: for example, higher temperatures around the world melt the icecaps, releasing methane stored in the polar ice that contributes to the rise in temperature, which both reduces available land for agriculture due to drought and makes parts of the ocean uninhabitable for different animal species, wreaking havoc on the food chain, and ultimately making food more scarce.
Maybe we should start to consider climate change's domino effect in more human and political terms. That is, in terms of the dominoes of sociopolitical events spurred on by climate change and the missing resources it gobbles up.
What the future may hold
(NASA via Getty Images)
Increasingly severe weather events will make it more difficult for nations to avoid conflict.
Part of why this is difficult to see is because climate change does not affect all countries proportionally — at least, not in a direct sense. Germanwatch, a German NGO, releases a climate change index every year to analyze exactly how badly different countries have been affected by climate change. The top five most at-risk countries are Haiti, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Notice that many of these places are islands, which are at the greatest risk for major storms and rising sea levels. Some island nations are even expected to literally disappear — the leaders of these nations are actively making plans to move their citizens to other countries.
But Germanwatch's climate change index is based on weather events. It does not account for the political and social instability that will likely result. The U.S. and many parts of Europe are relatively low on the index, but that is precisely why these countries will most likely need to deal with the human cost of climate change. Refugees won't go from the frying pan into the fire: they'll go to the closest, safest place available.
Many people's instinctive response to floods of immigrants is to simply make borders more restrictive. This makes sense — a nation's first duty is to its own citizens, after all. Unfortunately, people who support stronger immigration policies tend to have right-wing authoritarian tendencies. This isn't always the case, of course, but anecdotally, we can look at the governments in Europe that have stricter immigration policies. Hungary, for example, has extremely strict policies against Muslim immigrants. It's also rapidly turning into a dictatorship. The country has cracked down on media organizations and NGOs, eroded its judicial system's independence, illegalized homelessness, and banned gender studies courses.
Climate change and its sociopolitical effects, such as refugee migration, aren't some poorer country's problem. It's everyone's problem. Whether it's our food, our homes, or our rights, climate change will exact a toll on every nation on Earth. Stopping climate change, or at least reducing its impact, is vitally important. Equally important is contending with the multifaceted threats its going to throw our way.
You can learn good design through these books. Most of which is avoiding bad design.
There's still a lot even doctors don't know about it.
- Scientists are experimenting with applying electrical current to brains as a potential therapy and enhancement.
- A wave of DIY brain-shocking is worrying experts.
- Would you ever zap your own brain to see what happens? DIY and direct-to-consumer devices are available, but researchers have called for an open dialog with the DIY community about the risks.
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