John Robb: Terror by Government Drone – the Prequel

Drones & UAVs
John Robb
John Robb

My Drone Book/Movie (If I wrote one)

Posted: 16 Jun 2013 09:58 AM PDT

If I did write a near future, CGI thriller about drones, here’s my back of the envelope sketch of the plot. It’s definitely a movie plot, and not real.  That means it is meant to be over the top.

If you aren’t interested in an autonomous weapons disaster story, please disregard.


Start.  An Israeli drone hunter/killer op, run out of a converted trailer in the desert.  Drone IDs a target in urban area.  At risk of losing target, the drone “tags” target (microdots).  Target disappears inside building, and begins to into large, sprawling tenement, doesn’t emerge.  Call in “mother hen” delivery system full of “chick” ground drones for search and destroy mission inside the complex.  They are flown in, inserted, and enter the complex.  Target is IDed several floors/walls away but appears to be on the run and deploying counter-measures to spoof ground drones.

Target is intermittent and numerous ghosts appear intermittently.  All are moving.  The ground drones swarm, moving in a pattern that would encircle the target within the complex.   Probability calculation for primary target is over threshold (80%), so the order is given to swarm to go lethal.  Moments later the target drops a series of effective counter measures and blows through a wall into a corridor that allows a fast transient out of area.  Comms with the swarm is lost.  Since the swarm already has the green light on the target (not uncommon, but frustrating in the terminal phase of a misison), it continues on mission.  Drones, confused by the new counter-measures and out of comms with the team, begin to see targets everywhere.  They clear an entire tenement of 1000 + people, exit the complex and depart.

News emerges on social media feeds.  Wireless and Internet nodes are brought down in area to slow media upload.  To hide the mission failure, a drone is called in to blow up the evidence.  Explosion trumps other info.  The incident is lost in the noise within a couple of days.

Few people know about this logic flaw.  No lesson learned.

A riff on these rolling drones would be great “chicks.”  (click for youtube video of these – love the design thinking that went into them).


Skip to US operation.  Same situation, but on a larger scale within a city of 50 million people.   Drones are being used, even in this city, everywhere.  Wireless comms is everywhere.  Infuse everything.  Drone op uses a new technique that allows it to hack civilian drones and use them for info gathering and lethal effects.

Target is IDed.  Drone swarm is unleashed.  Hacks of local drones occur, they begin to gather data and transmit.  Drones are given green light to terminate target.  Comms are lost and drone swarm loses tracking on the target.   In an attempt to find target, it begins to scale the number of drones it controls, setting up wireless nodes around the city.  The number of drones slaved reaches a 100 million very quickly — all slaved to the “controlling platform.”

Comms and control can’t be regained by the operations team.  They call in drone strike to take out platform in air to air.  It misses/does damage.  Defensive posture is taken and drone defends itself, downing the air to air drone.  All moving targets near drones in the cloud are reclassified as threats.  Unfortunately, the drones in the cloud are spread throughout the city.  A war erupts, which pits every person in the city against an army of slaved agri/industrial/domestic/etc. drones and military drones.

Complete chaos.

Couple of different approaches for character development and dramatic tension.

One, follow the an ex-military guy making some money by reporting from hotspots.  He finds out about Israeli SNAFU.  So, he sets out to trying to stop this system from killing again.  He finds out about a deployment of similar system to the city.  He flies to area, gets caught up in chaos and kills mother drone.

Or.  This is a better approach.  Brilliant kid in the city, used to hacking drones for a pittance of pay, uses his/her hacked drones, some brilliance, and lots of friends to fight the mother drone.  He/she downs mother drone in final fight in the bowels of the city, where it is preparing a defensive position.

Or, a combo of the two above to defeat the system.

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