Weaponizing Lego

Geek Culture

Yikes. Noah Shachtman, of our Danger Room blog, sends me the following:

Radio Controlled Toys Serious Threat To Security Says NATO Official

Photo courtesy AFP

by Staff Writers
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Apr 27, 2007

NATO is concerned by the easy access to drone technology in the world, which is in particular used in radio controlled toys, a NATO deputy assistant secretary general said Thursday.

Guy Roberts told a Moscow nonproliferation conference that 18 months ago, a father and son built a small unmanned airplane in Vermont, U.S., which flew nonstop from New Hampshire to the U.K. with a five-kg load, eventually landing 10 meters from the target place.

Roberts said the flight was possible with the help of open commercial technology which is potentially very dangerous.

Roberts, who oversees issues of weapons of mass destruction policy at
NATO, tried to imagine what could happen if thousands of such drones, even with an ordinary and not WMD charge, were dispatched to a target.

He also said NATO conducted an experiment several years ago, which showed that it was possible to buy a set for a biological laboratory through the Internet for about $300,000, which was quite capable of producing WMDs. The deputy assistant secretary general said this area is totally uncontrolled.

Well, he got that last part right, at least. What I and my kids are doing is using cellphones and toys (including Lego) to make flying robots. The cheapest of them cost a few hundred dollars and fly below the regulatory threshold for all the technologies involved, from the sub-watt radios to the sub-400 ft flying altitude. Which part of these systems would Mr Roberts like to ban? The flying toys? The cellphones? GPS? Open-spectrum radio? Lego?

Oh, and how did the purely theoretical threat from R/C planes with less on-board computing than an iPod fall under the domain of the NATO executive who "oversees issues of weapons of mass destruction policy"?

Our amateur UAVs are made possible by Moore’s Law-like effects in electronics, radios, batteries and even motors. They’re getting cheaper, smaller, lighter and more powerful because that’s what technology does. I’m just doing what technology made possible. There’s nothing new about being able to deliver small packages to specific addresses–that is, after all, the mission of the US postal service. If you want to deliver a bioweapon to a city, there are any number of legal ways more effective than putting them in a robot plane with limited range and power. Why demonize UAVs simply because their first use was military?

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