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Drones over NZ

Written By: - Date published: 12:26 pm, April 3rd, 2013 - 33 comments
Categories: police, war - Tags:

Drones have been all over the news these last few years, and America’s indiscriminate use of drones is both a hallmark of and an indictment of Obama’s presidency. I guess it’s no surprise to find that they have flown in NZ airspace:

The United States has flown highly sophisticated Global Hawk drones through New Zealand airspace, official papers reveal.

With a price tag of $250 million and a wingspan greater than a 737 airliner, Global Hawk surveillance aircraft are amongst the largest and most expensive unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The US has tried to keep their operations secret. But Civil Aviation Authority documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act say the mega-drones have flown numerous times in New Zealand airspace.

“Most [UAV] activity is from military users who are well informed and usually conduct operations away from the commercial airspace corridors,” reads an issue assessment paper from last year. “There have already been a number of occasions when Global Hawks [35-40 metre wing span, 3 tonne payload] have traversed New Zealand’s oceanic airspace transiting between Australia and the US.” …

A spokesman for Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said he would not comment as there had been no involvement with the NZDF.

Must admit I didn’t know that:

The NZDF operates its own Kahu drones in what Ms Rendall said was a “limited interim capability for military tasks”.

And of course the police are getting in on the act (albeit with drones that are a lot less scary than a Global Hawk):

Police have confirmed to 3 News they have purchased a spy drone or unmanned aerial vehicle for use in criminal investigations. They say at this stage the technology, used in war zones such as Gaza and Afghanistan, is only being trialled here. Greg O’Connor of the Police Association says it is an innovative breakthrough for the force. “It’s smarter, it’s cheaper, it’s more efficient,” he says. “Why wouldn’t police use it?”

See David Beatson at Pundit for a discussion.

Mmmmm. With all this drone activity, I wonder if we will see an increase in this kind of response – from a recent article in the Guardian (which I initially thought was an April Fool’s joke, but apparently not):

The anti-drone hoodie that helps you beat Big Brother’s spy in the sky

Anti-drone hoodie worn by Tom MeltzerI am wearing a silver hoodie that stops just below the nipples. Or, if you prefer, a baggy crop-top with a hood. The piece – this is fashion, so it has to be a “piece” – is one of a kind, a prototype. It has wide square shoulders and an overzealous zip that does up right to the tip of my nose.

It does not, it’s fair to say, make its wearer look especially cool. But that’s not really what this hoodie is about. It has been designed to hide me from the thermal imaging systems of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles – drones. And, as far as I can tell, it’s working well.

“It’s what I call anti-drone,” explains designer Adam Harvey. “That’s the sentiment. The material in the anti-drone clothing is made of silver, which is reflective to heat and makes the wearer invisible to thermal imaging.”

The “anti-drone hoodie” was the central attraction of Harvey’s Stealth Wear exhibition, which opened in central London in January, billed as a showcase for “counter-surveillance fashions”. It is a field Harvey has been pioneering for three years now, making headlines in the tech community along the way.

Strange days indeed.

33 comments on “Drones over NZ ”

  1. aerobubble 1

    My question is, if the state can have drones, them so can private firms, and even politicial parties???
    Can you foresee a time where drones track the PM or other politicians?

    How about this? If bank customers were to collect the names of the people working at a bank, or customers of any company, could they on sell them? How about AA meetings? Are Banks and other companies, like telecos, and yes even google playing with fire when they on sell peoples preferences?
    Would the CEO of a high tech firm stand a chance of have a private life if the world of people were to decide to declare his every movement, his buying habits, who the people they meet, on line 24-7?

    Isn’t that the real test, would the Police want drones tracking them? Or politicians?

    Well lucky for drone companies we have the National party in power, since they have no
    limits on profits and no idea of collatoral damage.

    • McFlock 1.1

      Drones are covered in the CAA regulations, although I suspect it might be rather difficult to get the permits to possess the hellfire missiles to attach to them. The larger drones increase accordingly in both aircraft certification and operator certification requirements. But anyone can buy a wee self-stabilising helicopter from Jaycar or similar and hack it to run almost autonomously.

      Although one might have some surreptitious filming issues.

      I think there are a few real estate companies using small UAVs of varying levels of sophistication to take high shots of properties for sale. Cheaper than a helicopter or plane, and can get closer.

      The interesting thing about on-selling preferences is that it happens already, in some cases anonymised and in other cases signing away your right to privacy is part of the conditions for e.g. getting a bank loan (e.g. enabling info sharing between bank, finance coy and credit agencies).

  2. McFlock 2

    The Kahu is a hand-launched short range drone with cameras. Big difference between that and a global drone that launches missiles at folks.

    That having been said, it’s a bit much to call drones in transit flying through our EEZ “over NZ”.

    • Populuxe1 2.1

      Especially if, as one suspects, they were in the cargo hold of a plane at the time…

      • McFlock 2.1.1

        So the most efficient way to transport a globe-trekking aircraft is to disassemble it and stick it into another aircraft?

  3. Populuxe1 3

    Drones fire exactly the same missiles as attack helicopters. Would you feel better if they were fired from a helicopter? If not, why are you so obsessed with the fucking drones?

    • Pete 3.1

      Global Hawks are purely surveillance drones. Definitely a concern, but not as big as if they were Predators. I am a little surprised that they fly them around like that to get to a theatre of operations, rather than transport them in a cargo plane, but perhaps it’s cheaper.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        And not just cost, it simplifies logistics enormously, plus they are items which need secure military transports, you can’t just fed-ex a Global Hawk.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      Yes of course its better if they were fired from an attack chopper eg. you can down the chopper and kill or capture the enemy pilots.

      Also attack choppers are relatively short range so you have a good chance of attacking their operating base as well, whether its on land or at sea.

    • Murray Olsen 3.3

      Drones depersonalise war and allow murder without oversight or public knowledge. They make the use of deadly force far more likely, especially since many anti-war Americans are more worried about their boys dying than anything else. That’s why I’m “obsessed with the fucking drones.”

  4. Wayne 4

    From what I read, the Global Hawk wasn’t even over the EEZ. It was in the international airspace for which NZ has air traffic control responsibility, essentially of passenger jets. That is an area almost up to Fiji.

    It is a bit like saying that ships are using NZ waters, when in fact they are in international waters where NZ has search and rescue responsibility (which is most of the SW Pacific).

    Presumably the “incursion” was during the transit from US to Australia.

    • lprent 4.1

      Yep. That is what has been reported so far.

      After Herald inquiries about the Global Hawk flights, a CAA spokesman said the authority knew of only one Global Hawk which had briefly overflown the upper reaches of the Auckland Oceanic Airspace.

      New Zealand’s sovereign airspace extends 12 nautical miles (22.2km) from the coast. The Auckland Oceanic Airspace extends beyond that and into the South Pacific Ocean, up to Tonga and Samoa.

      Of course given the usual reticence of the CIA and US military, we’ll probably have to spend the next few weeks getting drip feeds from people with sightings, access to civilian and military radars, and access to satellite images

  5. Kaahu 5

    Global Hawk drones having been flying the Pacific to Australia for about a decade.

  6. Colonial Viper 6

    Northrop Grumman Global Hawk operational range over 8,000 nm; some sources say over 10,000.

    nb this was in reply to P1 whom I presume has now realised that there are some continent hopping military UAVs out there.

  7. joe90 7

    The US military has launched drones from an Australian airbase and there have negotiations that may let them base more on the Cocos Islands for use in the South China sea. Their renewed interest in the region means that it’s quite likely that the US would be keen to base surveillance operations here in NZ too.

    • Populuxe1 7.1

      Makes sense now that North Korea is escalating their rhetoric and quite possibly have the tech to back it up now

  8. drones could explain muzza’s sighting of suspicious ‘trails’ in the air on his commercial flight where he thought they shouldn’t be.

    • McFlock 9.1


    • One Tāne Huna 9.2

      Yeah, but Muzza’s not stupid enough to buy that line. Everyone knows the Reverse Vampires control that section of the stratosphere.

    • muzza 9.3

      Possibly Marty, but I also saw the planes, which were not drones per se.

      Good to read that OAB’s level of maturity is on the up at (9.2)!

  9. David 10

    Up to the minute story on drone use in New Zealand on NZ Herald here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10874979

    a recent story in the New York Times pointed out that drones will soon be as common as muck. Obviously there are issues with privacy, noise, air safety etc some of which are mentioned in the NZ Herald story

  10. The Al1en 11

    Like storm troopers in drag, are drones. Use the force.

    These aren’t the islands you’re looking for. We can go about our business. Move along.

  11. Draco T Bastard 12

    With a price tag of $250 million and a wingspan greater than a 737 airliner…

    ZOMG, it’s got a big wingspan, PANIC!!!111!!!

    Goddamn, I get pissed off with scare reporting like that. Yes, it’s got a long wingspan but the craft itself is actually quite small. Certainly nowhere near the size of a 727 airliner and considering it’s estimated range I suspect a lot of that is fuel tank (which is probably why they fly the damn thing rather than stripping it down and putting it in another aircraft – can’t really get those tanks to take up less room).

  12. Erentz 13

    Drones have useful purposes. I hope people don’t overreact to them. One example that would make sense for NZ in future might be maritime surveillance. Rather than flying a fully crewed P3 Orion, use remotely operated UAVs to provide better coverage, cheaper.

    • Ugly Truth 13.1

      Given the lack of transparency over chemtrails it’s rational to be skeptical about the motivations behind the use of drones.

  13. TEA 14

    Yep !
    And another 100+ drones in the beehive keeping NZ ticking like a bomb.

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