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Innovation

Are Google flying robots going to spy on us from the sky?

How would you feel if Google launched a fleet of flying drone aircraft? They're not going to, but work with us here.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor on

With all the recent privacy uproar over Google's Street View, especially in European countries, how would you feel if Google launched a fleet of flying drone aircraft?

Here's the story. Forbes reported yesterday that a German company, Microdrones had sold four of its flying surveillance drone robots to Google.

Sigh.

As it turns out, one Sven Juerss, the chief executive of Microdrones, was so pumped up about his sale to Google that he had to go running to a German magazine, Wirtschaftswoche (in English, that's "Economic Week").

Juerss told Wirtschaftswoche (no, I am not going to try to pronounce it) that his robotic helicopters would be helpful in Google's mapping projects.

Now, let's break this down into its component pieces. First off, if you're a company that sells surveillance drones, here's a tip: don't tell people about your customers. If I'm a country or even a company and I want to buy some robot spy helicopters, I'm really not going to want my vendor blabbing all about it like a little teenager.

Apparently someone at Forbes speaks Wirtschaftswoche, because as quick as you can say "Bob's your uncle," the story was picked up and reported in Forbes.

So is Google planning on spying on you from 1,000 feet in the air? Well, according to Forbes, quoting a "Google spokesperson", the answer is no. The real answer is, "This was a purchase by a Google executive with an interest in robotics for personal use."

In the interest of fairness, I thought I'd show you my fleet of flying (ok, mostly crashing) drones (yes, those orange balls are training, uh, balls):

Go ahead. Conspire together and come up with some exciting conspiracy theories. Special points if you can link Google to Elvis or somehow make it all Steve Ballmer's fault.

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