China launches high-tech bird drones to watch over its citizens
They're called Doves and they don't come in peace.
Jennifer BissetFormer Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
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The program is reportedly codenamed "Dove" and run by Song Bifeng, a professor at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi'an. Song was formerly a senior scientist on the Chengdu J-20, Asia's first fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, according to the Post.
The bird-like drones mimic the flapping wings of a real bird using a pair of crank-rockers driven by an electric motor. Each drone has a high-definition camera,
, flight control system and a data link with satellite communication capability, the Post reports.
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While the "scale is still small", according to Yang Wenqing, a member of Song's team who commented to the Post, the researchers "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."
Beijing's surveillance technologies, however discreet, can be avoided. But these drones will open a "new level of intrusiveness," Timothy R. Heath, senior international defense research analyst at global policy think tank The RAND Corporation, told CNET via email.
"Although the bird drones will likely be deployed in restive provinces like Xinjiang, any Chinese person should assume that their behavior could be under surveillance and their behavior recorded, no matter where they go outdoors," he said. "China's use of bird drones will extend the government's surveillance to a frightening new level."