Point Mugu, California – At Naval Base Ventura County, an unmanned spy helicopter completed its maiden voyage the morning of October 31, 2013. The Fire Scout MQ-8C passed over Southern California coastline, demonstrated flight and tracking capabilities, and confirmed a new autonomic control system – meaning the drone flew itself.
The primary function of the Fire Scout fleet is surveillance. Its predecessor, the MQ-8B, has already been used to monitor opposition in Afghanistan and Libya, despite having crashed on several occasions and resulting in a temporary grounding last year. These Blackhawk-style flight vehicles require no human controller and are manufactured by military-industrial kingpin Northrop Grumman at a cost $15.3 million each. The Navy plans to purchase 145 over the next two years. While this represents less than 0.2% of the military’s annual budget, for the fourth-largest weapons manufacturer this deal represents roughly half of their annual profit.
Some features of the model include:
- UHF/VHF voice communications relay
- Electro-optical, infrared sensors
- Laser designator for scanning and tracking targets
This flight test comes just weeks after another Northrop Grumman computer-navigated Navy drone aircraft, the X47-B, made news of its first flight. The X47-B resembles a smaller version of the B-2 stealth bomber and can fly round-trip across the country without landing.
Both types of drone are designed for surveillance and not combat, officials say. And while similar technology is already in use today aboard commercial airliner’s auto-pilot features, the continued funding of computer-controlled technology in our skies is a control shift: pilots replaced by drone operator replaced by computer.
Hours after the test flight, just 50 miles to the east, LAPD helicopters hovered over those reveling on All Hallow’s Eve. While attendees were fixated by stupor and suicide, the desensitization toward a rising surveillance state developed, soon to be managed entirely by computer application.
Oskar Mosco, CA-TAC