Drones the size of bees – good or evil? | Steven Poole

Forget Prism, scientists have developed tiny drones modelled on bees. I hope they aren’t used to bomb people, but for observing wildlife, or even better, replacing the real-life ones we’ve lost

What with the NSA’s Prism programme, ubiquitous CCTV and fashionable nerds sporting Google Glass, it seems there’s no escape from prying eyes in the hi-tech modern world. But we might look back on this time as a golden age of relative privacy, before the gnat-sized surveillance drones invisibly swarmed in the air, video-recording our every movement and making of the globe a glorious Panopticon. This might sound futuristic, but it’s probably not that far off. This week at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh, videogenic scientists and thinkers have been seriously discussing the ethics of drone use, now and in the sci-fi future. Drones can be used to bomb people, but they can also be used to count endangered orangutans in the wild. Assassination or conservation, it’s all in a day’s potential drone-work.

The word “drone” was probably chosen to describe remote-controlled military craft – formally, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – so as to sound maximally boring. You don’t want to sit next to someone who’s droning …read more