Presented at 31C3 (2014)
Dec. 29, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
During World War I, homing pigeons were used to carry messages and take photographs over enemy territory. Today, experiments are being conducted to remote-control insects for similar purposes.
This talk intends to give an overview of 100 years of living drones, speculate on future developments in the field, and question the ethical implications of the practice.
Long before man-made aerial vehicles were invented and perfected, pigeons have been employed to carry messages over long distances. Their homing instinct, the ability to find their way back to their home loft from as far as 1,000 miles away, has been known and used by mankind since ancient times. While regular pigeon post had been established since the Middle Ages, it was during World War I that pigeons were used extensively for military purposes: radio communication was still crude and unreliable, but pigeons were fast and dependable means of delivering messages from behind enemy lines. With the advancement of photography, they were even employed as aerial surveillance drones, equipped with small automatic cameras.
Although the US and British armies disbanded their pigeon sections in the 1950s, carrier pigeons are being used for communication purposes until today.
Taking the idea of connecting flying animals with communication technology one step further, as of 2014, experiments are being conducted in wiring and remote-controlling moths, effectively turning them into biobots to be used for search and rescue missions – and possibly for military and surveillance purposes?
University of Vienna, via Germany, USA and Japan. 20th Century History, Japanese and American Studies, Intelligence & Espionage. Pandas & Star Wars.