By Mark J. Donovan
Back in May of 2015 there was a report that came out about U.S. military scientists who had come up with a new drone that can fit in the palm of your hand, and that can be deployed in large swarms from aircraft, balloons, or even a large mother drone. The mini-drone is called “Cicada” after the notorious loud and swarming insect. The Cicada name is an acronym for Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.
The Cicada mini-drone has no propulsion system. It is simply a glider that is released from a mother aircraft and flies a prescribed mission profile. After flying its mission, it eventually ends up on the ground at a designated target area. While flying, and on the ground, the Cicada mini-drone can listen and observe targets of interest. The Cicada is also equipped with sensors for measuring and reporting temperature, humidity, and air pressure. Moreover, it can be outfitted with a plethora of other sensors for measuring and transmitting back data.
Because of its small size, and the fact that it is released in swarm quantities, full detection and destruction of Cicada mini-drones by enemies is highly unlikely. Thus, the Cicada makes a very effective surveillance tool. Moreover, at a targeted cost of only $250 each, the Cicada mini-drone, even in swarm quantities, is an extremely inexpensive military surveillance tool.
Though the Cicada mini-drone represents public state-of-the-art drone technology news, there is no doubt that numerous government defense agencies around the world are investing heavily to further shrink and empower this surveillance drone technology. MicroElectroMechanical systems (MEMs) and even NanoElectricalMechanical systems (NEMS), a.k.a. “smartdust or nanodust”, are already in development that will eventually enable nano-drones of the future to be invisible to the naked eyed. So small in fact, that they could literally and unwittingly be ingested into a living body, from which then anything is possible. The nano-drone, if you will, could be used for anything from surveillance to medical diagnosis and therapy, to even life termination if so programmed or command to.
Suffice it to say drone technology is still in its infancy, and the latest social, logistical and legal issues facing the use of this technology are just the tip of the iceberg. In the not too distant future, expect nano-drone technology and all of its pros and cons to become real and public. And when it does, be prepared to live in a very different world. Where the phrase personal privacy is a giggle at best.