Monday, December 26, 2011

occucopter: watching the watchers


Alternet | The police may soon be watching you in your garden picking your vegetables or your bottom. As police plans for increasing unmanned aerial surveillance take shape, there is a new twist. Private citizens can now buy their own surveillance drones to watch the police.

This week in New York, Occupy Wall Street protesters have a new toy to help them expose potentially dubious actions of the New York police department. In response to constant police surveillance, police violence and thousands of arrests, Occupy Wall Street protesters and legal observers have been turning their cameras back on the police. But police have sometimes made filming difficult through physical obstruction and "frozen zones". This occurred most notably during the eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, where police prevented even credentialed journalists from entering.

Now the protesters are fighting back with their own surveillance drone.Tim Pool, an Occupy Wall Street protester, has acquired a Parrot AR drone he amusingly calls the "occucopter". It is a lightweight four-rotor helicopter that you can buy cheaply on Amazon and control with your iPhone. It has an onboard camera so that you can view everything on your phone that it points at. Pool has modified the software to stream live video to the internet so that we can watch the action as it unfolds. You can see video clips of his first experiments here. He told us that the reason he is doing this "comes back to giving ordinary people the same tools that these multimillion-dollar news corporations have. It provides a clever loophole around certain restrictions such as when the police block press from taking shots of an incident."

Pool is attempting to police-proof the device: "We are trying to get a stable live feed so you can have 50 people controlling it in series. If the cops see you controlling it from a computer they can shut you down, but then control could automatically switch to someone else."

This is clever stuff and it doesn't stop there. He is also working on a 3G controller so that "you could even control the occucopter in New York from Sheffield in England". We asked him if he was concerned about police shooting it down. "No," he said firmly. "They can't just fire a weapon in the air because it could seriously hurt someone. They would have no excuse because the occucopter is strictly not illegal. Their only recourse would be to make it illegal, but it is only a toy and so they might as well make the press illegal – they have already arrested 30 journalists here."

Ordinary people having the technology to watch the watcher is not something George Orwell predicted in his futuristic vision of 1984.

1 comments:

Ed Dunn said...

This was done in Russia first with a homemade quadrotor several months ago. The interesting thing is the protesters can use the gathered data that was not available before.

They going to outlaw these drones, watch and see.....

Honestly Not Sure How A Turd Like This Calls Itself A Scholar.....,

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