Are drones not scary enough for you yet? How about this? A drone helicopter that spots you and identifies you as an intruder. It tells you to stop and put your hands behind your head. Instead, you keep coming. The drone then shoots you with barbed Taser darts that pump 80,000V into you. If you try to get up, it will continue pumping voltage into you until you submit and the authorities arrive.
This isn't some dystopian theory. It's very real already, and I just saw it in action. Yes, it is terrifying.
At Chaotic Moon in Austin, Texas, amazing things are being made. It's a bleeding-edge design and development firm that has created apps, games, systems and websites for the likes of GM, Chevrolet, Fox, Pixar, Marvel, American Idol, Intel, The Daily and Whole Foods to name just a few. But when they're not doing that, they're trying crazy stuff.
CUPID, which stands for Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone, is meant to be a conversation-starter. As of now, there are no plans to sell it or release it (at least not that they would disclose). It's more to get us talking about what these machines are capable of, and what we want to do about it.
The drone is already capable of being fully autonomous, but due to legal reasons — not technological limitations — it had to be manually piloted for the demo I attended. In real life, it could work like this:
- Someone comes onto your property, which trips your home's outdoor motion detectors.
- CUPID wakes up on its perch, activates, and flies over to get a visual of the person. At the same time, it alerts you via a smartphone app that something is up.
- Once it finds the intruder, it uses an onboard camera (currently a GoPro Hero 3) to transmit the intruder's image to you. If you're like, "Oh, that's just Aunt Helen," or it's a deer or something, you press a button on your phone and it goes back to its perch.
- However, if it is an intruder, you press the Intercept button, and it warns them that they need to turn around and walk away. It also has two-way audio communication, so you can tell them yourself if you want. If they start walking away from your property, CUPID will leave them alone.
- But if they keep on coming, CUPID will shoot them with barbed Taser darts and zap them with a very incapacitating 80,000V of electricity straight to the nipples (or where ever the darts hit you). At the same time, it alerts the authorities. If you try to get away before the cops come, it will keep zapping you. Yes, it really works. They tried it on one of their employees this morning. (He's fine.)
Other options? You could also choose to outfit your CUPID to shoot pepper balls, which are basically paintballs filled with the stuff they put in pepper spray. It can also be flown using a virtual reality goggles, to give you the drone's perspective. The possibilities are more or less limitless, which also makes them scarier. Currently CUPID is in the hands of "good guys," but it doesn't take a major leap to realise that something like this could be potentially devastating in the hands of "bad guys." What if they decided to use it to attack people from far away? What if they outfitted it with a real gun, instead?
So, yeah, it's effectively started a conversation.
For those interested in the technical nitty-gritty, here are a handful of CUPID's specs:
- Remote Controlled Taser
- Six 17-inch carbon fibre blades
- 40amp speed controller
- GPS flight controller
- Two 3 cell 6400mAh batteries
- GoPro Hero3
- RC FPV Vision System goggles
- Knight Rider Style lights
- Two tentacles
According to Chaotic Moon, CUPID is just the beginning of what they're doing with drones. They are currently working on an EMP Drone, which is essentially to stop paparazzi drones from spying on people. The EMP Drone would fly close to the intruding drone (within about 1.8m) and blast an electromagnetic pulse that flies the offending drone's circuits and knocks it out of the sky. The EMP Drone would have a Faraday cage, so it would be impervious to its own blast. It would also have a downward-facing camera, so if it sees a person or a car beneath the drone, it wouldn't release the pulse, so drones aren't falling on people's heads.
They're also working on an Oil & Gas Drone for remotely inspecting gas pipelines for environmental hazards such as leaks. How would it do that? It's outfitted with a FLIR thermal camera. Pretty sweet.
Anyway, it certainly raises a lot of questions, and we hope you'll pose and argue some of them in the discussion below. [ Chaotic Moon]