Mary Wakefield

The drones are coming!

The drones are coming!
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Amazon is testing unmanned drones to deliver goods to customers — whatever next? Well, the Spec can tell you exactly what. Last year we ran a cover story on drones, predicting that:

'Quite soon, it will be impossible to ignore the fact that a revolution is taking place. You’ll look up one day and the skies will be full of flying robots: pilotless drones or UAVS (Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles) — all programmed to carry out different tasks. There’ll be security drones circling shops, streaming video back to base, Royal Mail drones flying parcels to and fro. Even the birds and bees may not be what they seem. The tiniest drones on the market right now are called MAVs (Micro Air Vehicles) and their designs are inspired by nature. There are robot flies with camera eyes — perfect for corporate espionage; mosquito drones that can inject a payload of poison; hummingbird drones that perch and listen on windowsills.'

Sounds scary? Well, you're quite right to be afraid. Our cover story that week included an interview with Daniel Suarez, a technology expert turned bestselling thriller writer, who has advised Nasa on the subject. He discussed the terrifying implications for terrorism and privacy, and included a warning for us all. Suarez said:

'My big concern would be that the public will fail to take notice until they’re in widespread use in both government and commercial surveillance — at which point it will be much harder to rein them in. Too many jobs will depend on them. The time for vigorous debate and establishment of checks and balances in drone-related laws is right now.'

Incidentally, if you're looking for Christmas presents, Suarez's thriller, Daemon, is gripping and has already proved spookily prescient.