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Drones Sailing Around the World and Delivering Our Mail: Is this Normal?

// Posted by on 02/28/2014 (12:34 PM)

In an article in Wired called “The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World,” Adam Fisher discusses the “sailing robot” that has been constructed to travel around the world by sea. Saildrone is “a wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle” that… Read more

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In an article in Wired called “The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World,” Adam Fisher discusses the “sailing robot” that has been constructed to travel around the world by sea. Saildrone is “a wind-powered autonomous surface vehicle” that is 19 feet long and made of carbon-fiber. It was released into the San Francisco Bay in October. The engineers of Saildrone programed it so that it would sail to Hawaii, 2,248 miles away, completing the world’s first “no-handed” sail in 34 days. In its journey across the pacific, the drone has been confronted with storms of gale-force winds and has battled fierce breaking waves.

“Above the waterline the boat is painted safety orange and emblazoned with the words OCEAN RESEARCH IN PROGRESS in all caps. The hull is black with bottom paint, and near the bow is the name in a fancy serif: Honey Badger.”

The engineering of Saildrone really mimics that of an airplane more than that of a sailboat. It has a tail just like an airplane does, it is designed to adjust to extreme angular changes, and it is powered completely by wind. Richard Jenkins and Dylan Owens, the engineers behind the Saildrone technology, hope that the structure will prove its sailing abilities so that one day it can be sent to vast, untravelled parts of oceans throughout the world to collect information. Jenkins and Owen both hope that once the technology of the structure is perfected it can be sent around to collect data that will prove that global warming is real. They would do this by monitoring changes in ocean acidification, which is the “key barometer of climate change.” And even beyond that the potential of ocean drones is huge:

“Drones could replace the world’s weather and tsunami buoys. The waters around oil platforms could be sniffed 24/7 for the first signs of a spill. Tagged sharks, whales, and other marine life could be followed and their locations patched into the international marine-traffic control system with a warning to stay away. Protected borders, coastlines, islands, and environmentally sensitive marine areas could be patrolled by drones programmed to photograph any interloping ships.” (Fisher, 2014, Wired)

What’s next for Saildrone? Jenkins and Owen hope to send the structure literally around the world. They have programmed it to travel about 25,000 miles around the South Pole and then in the direction of the equatorial Pacific. The engineers are constructing several more drones, now completely digital and constructionally perfected, to sail across oceans. Hopefully they will provide us with some valuable information about these bodies of water that we couldn’t know about without this technology.

Cleary Saildrone can offer the world a multitude of scientific and security uses; its potential is undeniable. Reaches of the world that are nearly invisible right now could be seen and researched, enabling the world to make infinite scientific advances. This article reminded me of our discussion about recent technology replacing humans. In the case of Saildrone, this is clearly not a danger to the world because people have never been physically able to travel to these places.

For research purposes I definitely support the use of drone technology, and Jenkins and Owens’ creation has provided a perfect example of the type of drone that can only be helpful to the world. I read another article, however, on other perspective uses of drone in mail delivery services for Amazon. USA Today reported in December that Amazon is gearing up to use small, unmanned drone aircrafts to deliver packages in a new program they will call “Prime Air.” The structures, called Octocopers,  would be programed to fly to their destination in 30 minutes or less.

It’s interesting that technologies like this are emerging, but I question whether or not this is a good thing. There’s nothing I like better than to receive my online orders quickly, but I would probably wonder how reliable and safe it is for automated machines to fly through the air delivering our packages. The Federal Aviation Administration would have to play a role in regulating the ways in which the drones operate, but even so I’m not sure how comfortable I am with this idea. The Amazon PrimeAir drone technology is several years away from being able to do this, but the company’s CEO swears that it will happen in the near future.

“Drones have mostly been used by the U.S. military to shoot missiles at enemy combatants in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the cost of these unmanned aircraft has dropped precipitously in recent years, making them more accessible to commercial users, such as companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs.” (Barr, USAToday, 2013)

There are laws that the government has passed that do not allow for the free use and construction of drones throughout the US, but many people believe that within the next few years the FAA will begin to allow drones for commercial use. How do you feel about the recent accessibility of drones to businesses and researchers? I personally believe that there should be very strict regulations on the uses of drones; they should be employed for military and scientific purposes, not for entrepreneurs and small companies. The Amazon CEO claims that the company will have a plan for safety and take extreme caution with the aircrafts, but I still wonder how safe this is. And beyond that, do we need our packages delivered in 30 minutes while AmazonPrime offers next day and two day delivery? Is this what our world has come to? Also, PrimeAir could potentially eliminate the job’s of Amazon workers and pose a threat to FedEx and UPS, which Amazon currently relies on for ground shipments. So the way I see it, drones (which people assume are helping businesses) could potentially be detrimental to others.

These articles reminded me a little big of our discussions about high frequency trading and technology taking over the roles of humans. We’ve created technologies to do certain things for us, but now we’ve turned a corner where it appears to me that we have taken it too far. While the Saildrone seems to be a positive use for drones (doing what humans can’t do themselves), the invention of PrimeAir seems to be an excessive use of drone technology. There are many ways to look at this and its hard to saying we should stop using drones altogether because they can be useful in so many ways. I do wonder, though, if one day they’ll be used for everything humans do and could replace us in many areas. That’s a scary thought.

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2014/02/saildrone/#slide-id-152781

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2013/12/01/amazon-bezos-drone-delivery/3799021/

 


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Hacked.

// Posted by on 02/17/2013 (11:31 PM)

Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried… Read more

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Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried to alter accounts. I have been fortunate enough for this to not happen to me, despite being somewhat naive with my accounts at times. The more I hear about these occurrences though, the more paranoid I get. An article in Wired from last year tells just one tragic story of a personal hacking victim. Mat Honan, a normal American with a family, a job, Apple products and an Amazon account, had his digital life erased for the sake of a practical joke. I found his story somewhat heart-wrenching and indicative of how scary the potential for collateral damage is. Honan’s hackers got access to his Amazon account and used the Amazon information to reset his Apple ID password. The two companies require different information to verify identity, allowing the hackers to get through without knowing the answers to security questions. With the Amazon account information, the hackers deleted Honan’s Gmail account. The Gmail account was only deleted after the hackers obtained access to Honan’s Twitter account. With the Apple ID information, the hackers remotely wiped all of Honan’s devices using the “Find My” application.

Once the Twitter account was taken over, the hackers used it to start trouble and send racist and homophobic tweets to Honan’s followers. Honan created another Twitter account and sent the hackers a personal message @ his old Twitter handle. As it turns out, the hack was not a personal attack, but rather a quest to gain control of Honan’s Twitter handle. In the process, Honan’s entire digital life was erased.

Interestingly enough, almost all of Honan’s frustration and anger about the situation was directed at himself, Apple, and Amazon. He was upset with himself for not backing up everything into the cloud and for using the same prefix for his email accounts, etc. Honan recognized that his accounts could have been more secure. The frustration with Apple and Amazon exposes both of the companies for having a weak security framework. The people at Wired were able to replicate the scenario with instructions from the hackers within minutes.

The implications of Honan’s story are scary. I found myself feeling emotional during the article and frantically thinking about where and how all my information is shared and stored. Just the mere thought of losing all of my songs, photos, documents, and emails is enough to send chills through my entire body. Today, we put so much trust in the Internet and associated entities, but how safe is that? I think it’s definitely too late to transition back to physical/tangible data storage, but how can we be sure that the companies we’re trusting with our “lives” are keeping our best interests in mind? The article made me feel like a slave to the system – just another pawn on the chess board. How can we (as the average consumers) protect ourselves and get the power back for security?

I really recommend reading the entire article!


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How secure are we?

// Posted by on 03/12/2012 (8:58 PM)

After doing some research on Stuxnet, I have begun to wonder how secure we really are. Now, I’m not talking about physical security, like the possibility of a nuclear war or getting mugged on the street, I am talking about… Read more

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After doing some research on Stuxnet, I have begun to wonder how secure we really are. Now, I’m not talking about physical security, like the possibility of a nuclear war or getting mugged on the street, I am talking about security on cyberspace, cybersecurity. If hackers can spread a virus that can wreak havoc on nuclear reactors, they can also hack into thousands upon thousands of websites and steal information. As our world continues to increase in the amount of and dependence on technology, the amount of information about ourselves that is entrusted to corporations through the Internet or is stored in the cloud, is also increasing. And it all makes me wonder, how secure am I?

A recent opinion piece on Wired states that with the exponential increase in cyber attacks within the past few years, something must change. These attacks have grown to being much larger than simply stealing a person’s credit card number, but stealing the information of thousands of customers or hacking the power grid may be more realistic threats, depending on whom you ask.

In this video, there are clips of President Obama saying that these threats are serious and possible, yet Jim Harper from the CATO Institute, states that these are not serious threats because they are not probable and even if they did occur, they would not last too long.

Which leads me to the question, do you feel safe? When I think about cybersecurity, I am not too worried about my information. I try to be responsible about choosing which sites I give my information to and ensuring that they are reputable and secure. Some websites have my credit card number so that I can check out quicker and not have to put it down each time (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but am I naive to think that I am safe? Is there any way that we can truly be safe or are we all susceptible to an attack?


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