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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2018 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



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Technology just rolls on

7 December 2017

This week we had a supermoon.

Woohoo... I guess.

Unfortunately there was cloud around when the supermoon rose around here at about 9pm and I'm a bit of an early-riser so I wasn't going to wait up until midnight in the hope that the skies would clear.

However, I did get up just before 4am and enjoy the wonderfully lit landscape that spread out before me as a result of this spectacle.

And I also threw my video glasses on and went for a fly down the local park.

So much fun, especially since I didn't have to worry about attracting the attention of kids or interested passers-by. I had the whole children's playground to myself (ah, the things that dreams are made of!).

And while gliding about on this brightly moonlit night, I was reminded just how quickly technology advances and how we can now get really cool stuff that was, just a few short years ago, either science-fiction or inordinately expensive.

I'm mainly talking about that super-low-light camera used on the small multirotor from which the video was taken.

This is a sub-US$50 camera out of China but a decade or so ago, you'd have had to pay perhaps two orders of magnitude more than that for something with this level of low-light performance in such a small form-factor. Actually, you probably couldn't have bought something this good and this small at all -- the technology just wasn't there.

What's more, this "starlight" camera technology seems to be getting better almost by the day. The actual unit on this drone is an early pre-production model and the ones you buy "off the shelf" now are actually even better.

I wonder if this scares "the powers that be"?

Are they quaking in their boots at the prospect that swarms of drones will attack in the middle of the night, carefully guided by a small army of geeks with video goggles?

In fact, is it this fear of the rate at which consumer-grade technology is advancing which is driving the "drone hysteria" we're presently seeing within the halls of regulators and bureaucrats?

Are they worried that, thanks to these very clever machines, things that they thought were secret are no longer secret? Is it not so much the fear of a child's toy bringing down a huge passenger jet -- but the fact that a low cost drone can effectively go places where "the powers that be" would really rather nobody was looking?

And where to next?

Right now, the super-good Infra Red cameras (the ones that pick up body heat) are effectively a restricted export out of the USA. There are very strict controls over the resolution of sensors that can be exported and where they can be exported to. I can't wait until China starts rolling out $100 versions of the $5K cameras that the USA considers to be "a weapon". What will they do then?

In the mean time (before the council once again bans drones in our parks), I'll be enjoying the view from up high -- using technology that would have been worth the price of a decent house just a decade or two ago.

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