Aug 04, 2018 I Brett Tingley

Robotic Dove-Shaped Drones Are Spying on People from Above

It’s gotten to the point where it seems as if the Chinese Communist Party mines dystopian science fiction for ideas. Of course, life reflects art and art reflects life, so it’s likely both are just making use of new technological and social developments for their own benefit. Whatever the case is, ever since Mao Zedong announced the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China’s governing party has found new innovative ways to keep track of its citizens and more importantly, their thought-crimes.

Aside from the Orwellian Social Credit System the commies recently unveiled, a new report published by the South China Morning Post points out that Chinese surveillance has already taken a turn for the terrifying. It turns out that as far-fetched as it may seem, Chinese military and government agencies are using robotic birds to surveil citizens from the skies. Can any bird be trusted in light of this revelation?

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Disguising spy drones as birds is pretty ingenious. Do any of us really look that closely at birds flying overhead? The drones can fly high enough that they look like any normal bird, are close to silent, and even realistically flap their wings. The SCMP reports that 30 different agencies have deployed the birdbots in at least five different Chinese provinces.

Yang Wenqing, an associate professor at the School of Aeronautics at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xian, worked on the team which developed the dove drone project, code-named “Dove” appropriately enough. Yang says that while the drones are still only being rolled out on a small scale, the ChiComs plan to fill their skies with flocks of the dystopian avian onlookers in the near future:

The scale is still small. We believe the technology has good potential for large-scale use in the future … it has some unique advantages to meet the demand for drones in the military and civilian sectors.

The drones have already been used in China’s restive Xinjiang “autonomous” region to keep tabs on the Uyghur people who aren’t happy that the Chinese Communist Party drew their new borders around them without asking. Great job choosing a symbol of peace as a symbol of unwanted control too, CCP.

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While it’s easy to dismiss this as another example of China’s ongoing march deeper into a dystopian sci-fi hellscape with Chinese characteristics™, it has to make you wonder next time you're out and about: are those birds overhead really just birds? If China is filling their skies with robot spies, it’s only inevitable that other countries already are too. Who knows where else technological spies might be lurking? That creepy always-on home smart speaker you use to tell you the weather? The microphone and camera you carry around in your pocket everywhere you go? Your microwave? Inside your head? 

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself. You must know all the while that it is there, but until it is needed you must never let it emerge into your consciousness in any shape that could be given a name.

Forget hats. Wrap your whole house in tin foil, throw out all your devices, and go off grid.

The doves are coming.

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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