Category Archives: General Information

This Picture Should Scare The Hell Out Of Everyone

THIS PICTURE SCARES the HELL out of me! 

Forget about the blather de jour that the media puts forth on a nightly basis.  There has been almost NO  media coverage of this REAL EMERGING THREAT.

What are we looking at?  Well it’s a commercially available quadcopter or “drone”, with an explosive attached to it.

I found that you can buy this exact drone online for $199 with free shipping.  I suspect that the Mexican cartels used this particular drone as they are manufactured in Tijuana, Mexico.  Oddly it was designed in Berkeley California, the hub of “free speech”.  There are numerous OTHER quadcopters made in China which are available for retail purchase for a few hundred dollars and they all have similar capabilities.  And it’s the CAPABILITIES that are worrisome.

As an alternative to buying a completed drone, you can buy all the parts and pieces from many sources, foreign and domestic, to put one together.  In fact if one were sneaky, one would probably source the parts through a number of different vendors to cover one’s tracks and not raise any red flags.  Notice I say “one” which has significance that I’ll clarify below.

The picture shows what Mexican drug cartel operatives were caught with.  The report said it is carrying what they call a “potato bomb”.  It’s 1 pound of explosives wrapped in shrapnel (nails and ball bearing) to enhance its killing capabilities.

Here’s what i find disturbing about this.  A drone like this can fly at 30 mph or more.  It has a flight time of at least 10 minutes before the batteries die.  It may be able to travel faster and have a flight time of possibly up to 20 minutes.  Using the conservative numbers of 30 mph for 10 minutes, that’s a range of AT LEAST 5 MILES, possibly more than 10 miles.  With the built-in GPS it can travel those 5 to 10 or more miles and arrive at a target within about 10 feet, possibly even closer.  There are ways to get it within INCHES or factions of an INCH of a target.  There is a possibility to fly it through a window or doorway just to give some additional food for thought.

A drone like this is capable of completely autonomous operation.  What does that mean?  Well an evil doer can program in the GPS coordinates for the target and set it loose to cause mayhem.  It does not require any further human interaction once the target location has been programmed in.  Virtual waypoints (locations to define the drone’s flight path) can be programmed to allow the drone to skirt around buildings and other obstacles which would make it harder to detect.  You’ll hear some naive “experts” saying that you can “jam” the drone.  That is patently FALSE!.  Again, it flies all by itself.  Once the drone is in flight there is NOTHING to jam.  Keep in mind that NO training or experience is required to get the drone flying.  Technology has made it that simple.

It gets worse.

Now here’s where it can get even scarier.  At a cost of $200 a bad actor could buy 100 of them for less than the price of a nice used car ($20,000).  They could be released miles away from a target and the flock of killer drones could approach the destination from multiple directions.  Recall above that the flight path can be programmed in.  The bad guy could also “sequence” them so they arrive in “waves”, staggered a few seconds apart from each other, again coming in from all directions.  The odds of stopping  ALL 100 drones coming in from multiple direction in “waves” would most likely be near ZERO.  An attack in an urban setting would make detection and interception virtually impossible by any means.  I don’t think the military, law enforcement, or any government agency has the capability to stop such an attack.  And again, some food for thought.  100 drones means 100 pounds of explosives.  That’s a heck of a big boom.

The press likes to use the term “lone wolf“.  Well one bad guy could easily load 100 drones into a van and let them loose miles away from the intended target, ALL BY HIMSELF!  One EVIL man.  No vast network of terrorists required.

This is why I said, this should scare the hell out of everyone.

Imagine it. Build it!

I’ll continue my thoughts on technology that is readily available to almost anyone,  I’d like to show what can created in very little time without much training, by describing something I built today.

I needed a method to hold a sensor to my wrist for an experiment that I’m conducting.  In my head I imagined something like a wristwatch case with a Velcro band to make adjustments simple.

Using Autodesk Fusion 360 which is a FREE cloud based Computer Aided Design (CAD) program, I quickly sketched the design that I had in my head.  I made some fillets and chamfers along the edges to make it look pleasing to the eye.Sensor_Holder_Wrist_2016-Aug-16_12-19-26AM-000_CustomizedView8540235427This is the part that I sketched and then rendered (turned into a pretty picture) using Fusion 360.

Fusion 360 can convert the sketch into a Stereolithograpy (.STL) file.  This file type is used almost universally in the 3D printing field.  Creating this file is just one mouse click in Fusion 360.

Using an Open Source (FREE) program called “Cura”, I converted the .STL file into “G-code”, which are the  instructions that tell my 3D printer how to create the part.  To make this file it’s just a matter of opening the .STL file in Cura’s “file menu”.  Cura automatically creates the G-code file, no other action is required.  The G-code file is saved onto an SD card with one click of the mouse.

The SD card was inserted into my 3D printer and the “Print” button was pushed to start the print.  After about an hour the part was completed.

3D print wrist holder 2

This is the part with the Velcro band inserted into the slots of the part.

After making this first part, I thought of several changes that I’m going to implement to make it better.  When you hold a part in your hand, it’s easier to think about how to make the next one better.  The material cost of this part is just a few pennies. No big deal to toss it into the recycle bin (the material is completely recyclable and bio-degradable) and make a “better” version.  Iterating versions quickly is called “Rapid Prototyping”.

Any kid in grade school has the ability to make this part.  The child would only need a couple of hours of lessons to learn the basics of Fusion 360.  It would only take about 30 minutes to teach a kid how to use a 3D printer.  With less than 3 hours of classroom time, any child can start making almost anything that he can conceive of in his head into a real physical part.

Imagine it.  Build it!!!

Young Person, Seizing the Day

In my earlier post “Young People, Seize the Day!”, I wrote in part that now young folks can collaborate via the Internet.  I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he brought up what I consider to be an excellent example of a young person taking advantage of this global knowledge.

My friend’s 20-something daughter bought a condo last year and the dishwasher stopped working the other day. The dishwasher displayed an error code on the front panel. She was going to call and pay someone to come and repair it, but decided to search online to see what the error code was indicating.  She found that the code meant that the drain valve was not closing.  She also found an online video that showed the most common cause of the valve malfunction was caked up soap around the drain valve.  The video showed how to remove some parts to get to the drain and how to clean it.

Now this young gal had never repaired anything in her life.  She didn’t even have any tools. So what did she do next?  She emailed her dad and asked him what kind of pliers she should get.  He went online and found a set at the local big box hardware store and sent her the link to the pliers set.  She then went to the hardware store and bought the tools.

This young lady took apart her dishwasher, by herself, with only the knowledge gained from the online video and her new pliers.  Sure enough the valve was caked with soap.  After she cleaned out the valve and reassembled the dishwasher, voilà, fixed!

I find this very impressive.  Very impressive indeed.  The knowledge via the Internet empowered this young lady to take charge of things in her own life.  I imagine that she also gained the sense of accomplishment after fixing the mechanical beast.

To some, this may seem like a small victory but it probably will forever change this young lady’s view of her abilities going forward in life.

One small step…