By Betwa Sharma
Posting in Aerospace
Drones have become synonymous with the U.S. attacks inside Pakistan. But have you heard about the "Drones for Peace" program?
In Pakistan, public anger against drone attacks carried out by the United States continues to grow.
From June 2004 through mid-September 2012, missiles from these unmanned aircrafts have killed 2,562 to 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent journalist organization. Its research shows that out of a total of 351 attacks, 299 were done under the Obama administration.
The U.S. claims that these CIA-conducted drone attacks are the only way to kill militants and terrorists hiding in the mountainous terrain of northwest Pakistan. A report released by Stanford and New York Universities in September described these attacks as counterproductive for the U.S. and terrorizing for civilians residing in the targeted areas.
In November, however, The Guardian reported that Pakistan is building its own combat drones.
Khan, who heads Integrated Dynamics, a Karachi-based private company, has pioneered drone technology for civilian use. The engineer speaks with SmartPlanet about why he makes drones, his buyers as well as the costs and the risks involved.
SP: For how long have you been making drones and why do you make them?
RSK: I’ve been designing and making drones for over 20 years. Why? Why do people climb mountains? Aerospace technologies have always fascinated me and drones are a great learning platform.
SP: What kind of drones do you make and what are they used for?
RSK: I design drones for civilian and surveillance applications. These are mostly under 20 kg weight (40 lbs). The lightest SKYCAM is under a kg. There are numerous civilian applications that we are targeting from wildlife monitoring, agriculture, search and rescue to environmental and land use surveys.
SP: What military purposes can your drones be put to?
RSK: Aerial surveillance and early warning systems.
SP: Can you elaborate a bit more on the civilian purposes for these drones? Perhaps a few examples of how your drones have been used outside of Pakistan?
RSK: All of our exports to Europe and Australia have been for civilian applications including land mapping, agriculture, environmental studies and as platforms for research into full-size collision avoidance systems in passenger aircraft.
SP: How long does it to make a drone and how much does it cost to make one?
RSK: Our SKYCAM drone takes about two days to build and costs around $250. The complete system with a real time video feed to a ground station costs around $1000.
SP: Who do you sell drones to and for how much?
RSK: We cannot sell to individuals. All sales and exports are to organizations and government entities under end-user certification from the Government of Pakistan.
SP: Do you have competition from other private drone-makers in Pakistan?
RSK: None. We work on mostly civilian applications while the rest are concentrating on military applications.
SP: The Pakistan military is reportedly making drones now. What’s your assessment of these drones?
RSK: Actually several government R&D organizations in Pakistan are developing drones for military applications in Pakistan.
SP: In the future, will Pakistani drones have the capability to carry out attacks like the U.S. Predator?
RSK: Let me give you an example which might provide some clarity on this question and the perception that the press has about drones. Drones are aircraft without pilots. Many countries around the world have the capability of building light aircraft for passenger use or civilian applications but this does not mean that the technology can be extended into their being able to conduct a full-fledged fighter development program.
An armed drone is a completely different animal from a surveillance drone in the same manner as a light aircraft, like a Cessna, differs from an F-18. Future capability means a lot of money in spending and complete commitment from the government’s point of view and this may not be an immediate priority.
SP: China’s making drones as well. What’s your assessment of Chinese technology compared to the U.S.?
RSK: I think the Chinese will be right up there very soon with the leading drone technology countries in the world including the USA and Israel.
SP: There is big push back against drones in Pakistan because of the U.S. attacks. Are people angry with your work and have you ever been at risk?
RSK: There is always a risk of being misunderstood, largely due to press hype, of the types of applications that our drones are capable of. I have always been a strong advocate for banning drone strikes. There are so many life-saving applications that can be realistically attempted using drones like search and rescue, flood early warning, avalanche monitoring and disaster management.
We are attempting to promote these applications through our ‘Drones for Peace’ program and the SKYCAM system which will be available throughout the world for civilian life-saving applications.
Photos provided by Raja Sabri Khan.
Dec 2, 2012
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The article above show some great ideas, so we are seeing, instead, a sort of feeling like only one people of the world is important, and their friend(s), of choice... Is this not a good thing for you to see, and discuss for mankind to concentrate on: ( There are so many life-saving applications that can be realistically attempted using drones like search and rescue, flood early warning, avalanche monitoring and disaster management). I am seeing something very important here, and I do wish if people could stay on their own, work for their own, and stop taking what belong to others, could be a solution to some answers on a good path... Don't want what others have, don't envy others, and then bad talk them! I see hate and jealousy, I see you peeking! 'Who the cap fit, let them wear-it'.
drones are 'model airplanes'. a mean child could fly his propeller-driven model airplane down the street chasing someone.. So, not drones are not evil, some of the tings that are done, by people, with them are evil. If a word is spelled incorrectly, is the pencil to blame? No, it is the person in charge of the pencil, the person at the top giving the dictation.
Quite a metamorphosis of the meaning attached to a drone, which used to be taken as one humming around and living on the labour of others. It is good to hear of instances where a drone can be made useful by being put to constructive civilian applications. sgaur
Oh for heaven's sake, a "drone" is NOTHING BUT A MODEL AIRPLANE!! As such, it can't fly very far or carry much of a payload -- ANY kind of payload: camera, rocket-missile, propaganda leaflets, emergency medicines, etc. Model airplanes have been put to practical uses -- military and civilian -- plenty of times in the past. It's only recently that the military has been using a lot of them -- usually carrying transmitting cameras, for spying out Jihadist strongholds, so that real fighter/bomber airplanes can come after them. Occasionally a large drone will carry a small smart-missile or two, and zero in on small targets under the video/radio guidance of an army tech. The reason the mouthpieces for the Jihadists are crying so hard about "drones" is that they WORK. This is the same mentality that throws thousands of missiles and mortar-shells at Israel, then cries for the world's sympathies when the Israeli air force strikes back. Awwww. Boo-hoo-hoo. --Leslie < Fish
As long as the cowardly Muslims hide in the hills behind civilians and use them as human bulwarks instead of fighting without putting them in harms way, there is no reason for not using the drones to protect our own servicemen. If the local citizenry wants to tolerate these maniacal tools of Satan and not blow them out of existence in their area by forming resistance groups, what more can be said for them. There are no excuses. Other countries have dealt with their murderous radicals in this fashion. Sometimes fear trumps slavery.
The patternman JESUS said that you cannot get good fruit from a poison tree. I believe that his words hold true with the drone technology. Created by the war machine, it is just more of the same deceptive, militaristic technology that is used to KILL people! It never ends, and is always justified by some half-baked truth, that then innocent people's lives are shattered 'from a distance', like playing some stupid VIDEO GAME! Yes, the video gamer generation is now at the helm, and this B.S. technology will only escalate by other countries retaliating back and doing the same. One doesn't have to be much of a prophet to predict that it is only a matter of time before the U.S.'s KARMA for destroying innocent foreign lives UNNECESSARILY will come back to haunt it in retaliation towards innocent lives of Americans. History once again repeats itself, the only difference is that now it's on autopilot, with more 'bells and whistles'. http://www.issuesandalibis.org/dreamdrone.jpg
According to your argument there are quite a few inventions, that because they were developed for militaristic purposes, are evil and shouldn't be used . My understanding is that at least part of what became the internet came out of the Department of Defense. Does that make the internet evil? If the internet is evil should you be using it?