Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Danske droner: TV til taliban?

Wired's eminente blog Danger Room har fulgt afsløringerne af hvordan den amerikanske hær opdagede at videosignalerne fra deres ubemandede fly (droner) blev hentet ned af irakiske oprørere. Opdagelsen blev gjort da hæren gennemsøgte huse og fandt bærbare computere fyldt med videooptagelser af oprørerne - vel at mærke lavet fra deres egne droner.

Een af de mest sårbare droner er typen "Raven". Det danske forsvar har denne type droner, som grundlæggende bare er en lille håndholdt, fjernstyret flyver. Ravnen, som den danske udgave hedder, sprøjter ubekymret radiosignaler i alle retninger og alle og enhver der kan fange dem, kan se dem - med mindre de altså er krypterede. De amerikanske Ravens var ikke og det bliver der nu arbejdet på højtryk med at rette. Men hvad med de danske? Efter fiaskoen med Tårnfalken er Ravnen den mest udbredte UAV i Forsvaret og den bliver brugt i Afghanistan.

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The power of collaborative intelligence?

Ever so often, a little development shows how the internet is increasingly powering collaborative intelligence efforts. The increasing number of "sensors" out there (mobile-phones, etc etc) and the many specialist corners of the internet makes for more and more value in the open intelligence "production" on the internet. And compared to closed intelligence productions, the free flow of debate, rhetorical "anti-logos", makes for much more nuanced analyses in the end.

The latest of such anecdotes is that the US Airforce has just disclosed a hitherto secret drone project it was working on. The french newspaper Liberation's Secret Defence blog had pictures of a mysterious drone over Afghanistan, brought a picture snapped over Afghanistan, by god-knows-who, a grainy photo of a flying UAV. This unknown model was circulated and processed in a lot of specialist blogs and a pretty credible explanation was arrived at. At the same time, new pictures surfaced. And voilá! If you secret is safe with everyone on the internet, why not go public as the US Airforce did. Read more here.

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Danish UAV lost - in East Africa

The 14th of March the Danish Admiral's Office sent out a brief press statement, telling that "Today the Navy chose to send home two persons from the Ocean Patrol Vessel THETIS after they against standing directives had flown an observation drone over land".

The drone crashed somewhere "10 kilometres northeast of Mombasa".

The THETIS participates in the UN programme running aid to Somalia. The site Danish Naval History had speculated why it had been sent off without its complementary Lynx helicopter that it usually carries on its normal tasks in the North Atlantic, but perhaps carrying the drones is a cheaper and more manageable solution so far from normal waters of patrol.

To me, this is a curious story of the Danish Defence's ongoing and troubled affair with UAV's. After having to scrap the entire Sperwer programme, the Raven was purchased on 11th September last year. I guess the reasoning would go: "We couldn't get the complicated stuff to work, lets buy something that is "plug-and-play", portable in a backpack".

It seems that this strategy has really worked. With my knowledge, the incident is probably just a sign of eagerness recklessness with an excited crew. But despite the Navy's tradition for being less formal than the Army, it is still a bit surprising that an expensive system (over 165.000 DKK total) like that is lost in a bout of afternoon fun. The operators must either have been very careless or lost control over the drone, as the stated range is just about 10 KMs. This also questions its usefulness on a naval ship at sea, I would hold, having a very limited range and flying-time.

Malignant persons would also point out the Diplomatic implications of Danish units conducting surveillance of Kenyan territory - but it doesn't seem that this side of the story has had any traction in public circulation so far.

Here's a map of the surroundings.

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