Welcome back to the Bionic Bug podcast. This is episode number 2. My name is Natasha Bajema. I’m a fiction author, national security expert and your host for this podcast.
First off, I want to share a personal reflection. Last week, after I proudly posted my first-ever podcast, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts and realized that I made an amateur mistake in the closing segment. FYI, the slashes in website addresses are not back slashes, they are actually called forward slashes. #facepalm
I re-recorded the closing segment this week with the correction. I had a good laugh about it. The truth is that I’ve been making a lot of amateur mistakes lately… and I realized it’s because I’m doing many things for the very first time. Again. Since I’m in my forties and have built up a nearly two-decade career in national security, it’s been a long time since I’ve been new at anything. It feels so exciting and adventurous. In some ways, I feel like I’m 20 again.
If you take anything away from this at all, you should know that not only is it never too late to start a new career, but in fact, it’s highly recommended. Being an amateur again is incredibly freeing. It’s given me a fresh outlook on a lot of things.
Okay, let’s talk tech. There were a couple of headlines that caught my attention recently. An editorial on April 4, 2018 in the Richmond Times Dispatch entitled “Cybersecurity is Far More Critical than Border Security.”
The Internet was originally created as a network for labs and universities to communicate and share information. The main strength of the Internet is its openness, but this is also its primary weakness. There’s currently much debate against building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. I’m worried that we’ll spend billions and it will become obsolete even before it’s finished being built.
For example, organized crime, drug dealers and friends of cellmates in prisons are increasingly using drones to deliver packages across otherwise impenetrable physical barriers. Moreover, cybercrime is on the rise. Criminals are turning to the Internet and the Dark Web, both of which are borderless, to conduct their activities.
The U.S. is more invested in cyberspace than any other nation. Our society is addicted to the Internet. We can’t even imagine life without it. Our military has grown extremely dependent on the proper functioning of the Internet. And this is a major threat to our national security. Every semester, I recommend a few books to my students for reading. The one on the top of my list is called Ghost Fleet by August Cole and P.W. Singer, a particularly troubling vision for how WWIII might go done. If you want to know what keeps me up at night, this is it.
Many of you may not be aware of a recent ransomware attack against the city of Atlanta. On March 22, a cyberattack shut down the city of Atlanta’s online systems—affecting the computer systems of 8,000 municipal employees. As long as a week after the attack, officials were struggling to keep the government running without digital processes and services. Residents couldn’t pay their water bill or their parking tickets. Police officers were forced to write out their reports by hand. Court proceedings were canceled until computer systems would function properly. How well prepared are we for such attacks on a larger scale?
I fear the answer is we’re not well-prepared or even aware of the potential threat. Another article written on April 1, 2018 entitled “Cybersecurity Faces Challenges in Congress” notes that Congress is primarily focused on immigration, health care and budget legislation. “Cybersecurity is not necessarily one of the highest policy-making priorities.”
Changing the subject a bit, a headline on April 2, 2018 on Fox News caught my attention: “Company Plans Drones to Carry 400 Pound Payloads.” A Canadian company wants to develop a drone that can deliver packages up to 400 pounds. Well, I’d prefer they don’t fly over my house then. These drones will be able to fly 150 km (93 miles). The company conducted its first tests of the Sparrow drone on March 5. The smaller drone currently has a 5 kg capacity (11 pounds). They’re planning tests for another drone called the Raven with a payload of up to 25 pounds.
Drone delivery is coming. This is a theme of Bionic Bug. Amazon wants to be able to delivery packages by drones. Drone delivery is currently not legal in the U.S. The timing depends on when the appropriate regulations can be put into place.
I want to thank my first two patrons—Renee and Cheryl. Thank you so much for your support which allows me to produce the show. If you would like to support my show for only a few dollars a month, please go to patreon.com/natashabajema
In the first chapter, I introduced some of the main characters—Lara, Vik, Sully and Maggie. Sully was acting strangely. We learned that Lara’s company is in financial trouble. Let’s see what happens next.
Let’s go behind the scenes. Nationals park is an important setting for Bionic Bug and for me personally. My job is located walking distance from the baseball park. I drive by it everyday and go to a game a few times every year.
When I go to games, I marvel about the openness of the stadium. I was attending a game with my parents who were visiting me in D.C., and I couldn’t get the image out of my head, the image of hundreds of drones flying over the top of the stadium walls and into the park. What should I think? What would I do?
The drone show in Bionic Bug was inspired by a YouTube video I saw several years ago of a 100-drone light show designed by Intel. It was the first of his kind. The drones moved and blinked their lights to the music of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. The half-time show of the 2017 Super Bowl also featured a drone show. More recently, Intel broke their world record at the Olympics opener with a drone show involving a swarm of 1,200 drones.
Most off-the-shelf drones today can carry only a small payload – maybe a few pounds. But as you can see from these drone shows, with swarming capability, the potential for scale is unlimited – instead of lights, think about this. What if each of these drones carried a small explosive and were delivered to a target?
The views expressed in this podcast are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.