Beyond improving drone functionality, biomimicry can abet drone subterfuge. In June, the South China Morning Post reported on a new generation of inconspicuous “dove” drones used to monitor citizens in at least five Chinese provinces. These quiet, lightweight drones (complete with flapping wings) purportedly go unrecognized even by animals. One developer has described deliberately testing them near sheep, which, despite being generally skittish and alert to novelty in their environment, were oblivious of the robots overhead.
Ever greater numbers of drones are entering the airspace not just as tools of surveillance but as instruments of commerce and as playthings. This has led to an interesting moment. The airspace that drones occupy is far from empty; it is habitat. What lives there may be unwilling to cede its territory.
Australia, with its expansive terrain and favorable weather, is well appointed as a natural laboratory for commercial drone testing. But