Last summer, I received an email invitation to a terrorism conference in Tehran—the only problem being that the email was addressed not to me but to the former head of the Pakistani military. (I eventually finagled my own invitation, as well, and was able to attend as myself.)
This summer, a new addition was added to my arsenal of misdirected correspondence with the arrival to my inbox of an email bearing the subject line “Northwestern University startup - Indoor security drone.”
The email continued: “Of course, a guard still must be on site in case a human presence is required, but we believe the new technology can fundamentally change indoor security. Since you're the expert, I wanted to ask for your thoughts on how an indoor drone could be used.”In the message, the founder of a robotics startup at Northwestern University in Illinois informed me that “we're making an indoor autonomous security drone to help security guards patrol by collecting video, images, and 3D maps remotely.”
When I responded with a request to find out for whom, exactly, the dispatch had been intended, the young man wrote back: “Honestly, I used [digital services marketplace] Fiverr to purchase a $5 gig from a Bangladeshi guy who said he’d help me find a contact list of people in the security industry. He gave me a list of 11,000 contacts in a few hours.”
Ah, the wonders of technology. We can only hope that the actual production of the drones will be conducted in just as professional a fashion.
As for the notion that the devices might “fundamentally change indoor security,” there are presumably no truly revolutionary changes in store given the already existing landscape of mechanized hyper-surveillance in the United States—characterized by ubiquitous security cameras and other installations ostensibly meant to safeguard law and order.
Granted, most Americans have not yet progressed to that special level of familiarity with drones that certain blessed populations of the earth enjoy.