A piece that ran in the Guardian’s Comment is Free column is worth a quick superciliousness snort.
Covering Secrecy Blog’s recent release of a Sandia report on canceled plans for atom drones last week, the title is: US draws up plans for nuclear drones, by Nick Fielding.
Reporters and columnists don’t write headlines. But this one is deceptive and Fielding certainly knows it, having seen the Secrecy Blog post on the matter here.
The technology, although never directly named, is a propulsion energy source involving radio-decay, nuclear isotopes and fission products. And the reason Sandia boffins dropped it is because of an experience many years ago with the classified Timber Wind project, which involved nuclear propulsion in rocketry.
The bad publicity that resulted when Timber Wind was exposed by the Federation of American Scientists caused its cancellation. And while Sandia’s boffins of bad ideas couldn’t quite bring themselves to not take peeks at nuclear propulsion for drones, it’s also quite clear they recognized their projects were never going to be reality. For exactly the same reasons Timber Wind was scuttled.
Fielding’s piece for the Guardian makes no mention of any of this. It’s a big omission because it’s at the heart of the story. And, if ignored, it allows you to come to a conclusion that’s the opposite of reality but what’s conveyed in the Guardian, a much more sensational thing.
So the journalist finds someone you’ve never heard of to make a concerned noise about something that’s never going to happen:
“It’s pretty terrifying prospect,” said Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK, which campaigns against the increasing use of drones for both military and civilian purposes. “Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot. There is a major push by this industry to increase the use of drones and both the public and government are struggling to keep up with the implications …”
Using nuclear power would enable the Reaper not only to remain airborne for far longer, but to carry more missiles or surveillance equipment …
“Isn’t ’sexed up’ the British term?” commented Steve Aftergood wryly in e-mail to DD.